Despite its deceptively understated aesthetic, Obvious Child is both a complex reworking of the romantic comedy and a carefully crafted statement about reproductive freedom.
This film represents more than an auspicious feature debut for writer-director Gillian Robespierre; it is a revisionist genre film that is as smart as (500) Days of Summer and more important as a cultural document.
(500) Days of Summer gives male characters a (mostly depressed) fresh voice and stylish perspective that separates this movie from the glut of interchangeable and frequently tedious rom-coms.
Pushing the genre forward is a good thing.
But, making a serious attempt to demystify abortion as a medical procedure and to talk about the political in personal and generational terms is a more important thing.
The fact that Obvious Child is able to integrate discourses on reproductive rights into a charming, compelling, and convincing romantic comedy is a staggering accomplishment.
By anchoring the story in a main character, Donna Stern (Jenny Slate), who is a stand-up comic, there are enormous opportunities to weave personal experience and cultural context in a way that is organic rather than forced. And, Robespierre takes advantage of those narrative opportunities brilliantly.
Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann, and David Cross give spot on performances, and it is fun to see Richard Kind and Polly Draper as Donna’s parents. (The moment I saw Draper’s face, I felt a longing to binge watch thirtysomething!)
Obvious Child is easily one of my favorite films of the year…but it is so much more than that, too.