‘Obvious Child’ treads an original, comic path
A review of “Obvious Child,” the promising debut of director Gillian Robespierre. The film received three stars on a scale of four from reviewer Moira Macdonald.
Seattle Times movie critic
Movie Review ★★★
‘Obvious Child,’ with Jenny Slate, Gaby Hoffman, Jake Lacy, Gabe Liedman, David Cross, Richard Kind, Polly Draper. Written and directed by Gillian Robespierre. 85 minutes. Rated R for language and sexual content. Guild 45th.
Named for a Paul Simon song, Gillian Robespierre’s quick, smart comedy “Obvious Child” follows a few weeks in the life of Donna (Jenny Slate), an up-and-coming Brooklyn comedian. Donna, who’s broke and in her mid-20s, seems to be living her life in order to mine material for her very frank stand-up routines: She works in a store that sells “unoppressive anti-imperialist bargain books,” gets dumped by her boyfriend in a unisex bathroom, exchanges snarky one-liners with her best pals (Gaby Hoffman, Gabe Liedman), and has a mother (Polly Draper) who tells her that she’s “wasting her SAT score.” (If you’re thinking Donna might fit nicely into the cast of “Girls,” you’re not wrong.) Wounded from the breakup, Donna meets a nice-for-now guy (Jake Lacy, in aw-shucks mode) and, too quickly, gets pregnant.
From there, “Obvious Child” enters territory rarely trod by romantic comedies — it’s clear Donna’s in no way ready to have a child — and does so with warmth and wit. (In a particularly moving yet never heavy-handed scene, Donna’s mother tells her daughter of her own abortion, back when it was illegal — something they had never spoken of before.) The movie lags in the middle and is a little messy — like life, particularly when you’re in your 20s — but is immensely likable, and Slate’s comic rhythms are unique and quickly irresistible. She’s much funnier as herself than in her routines — and that’s, perhaps, the point, for someone for whom life is very much a work in progress and for whom the future involves “a bra, and a blouse, and a schedule.” (Donna refers to her mother as “an Eileen Fisher ninja.”) Always funny, always real, and leaving its audience smiling, “Obvious Child” is a more-than-promising feature debut for both Robespierre and Slate; remember those names.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org