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Review: 'Obvious Child'

Many movies tout themselves as being pro-choice – yet, most of those movies really only end up landing on one choice in particular. “Obvious Child,” Gillian Robespierre’s subversive new comedy, takes the cinematic rode less traveled by, and it’s for that very reason that this movie feels not only groundbreaking, but like a sign of changing times.

Jenny Slate in "Obvious Child"
Photo courtesy of A24, used with permission

Obvious Child” is unapologetic in its stance, which boils down to the idea that not all stories about unplanned pregnancies need focus on the main character struggling to come to a decision on what to do. For some people, like our main character Donna Stern (played by former SNL cast member Jenny Slate), the decision to have an abortion has been made up in their mind the second the pregnancy test came back positive. It’s a movie that reminds us that that’s okay; we don’t need reminders about how “babies have fingernails” (looking at you, “Juno”), or the emotional toll that comes with making such a choice. Her decision is entirely her own, and it’s made without shame or regret.

Donna is a stand-up comedian with a penchant for toilet humor and making fun of her Jewish looks. Earlier on in the film, we find Donna in the midst of a quarter-life crisis: she’s just been dumped by her boyfriend and fired from her day job. She goes to a bar to drink her sorrows away with some friends, and ends up having a one-night stand with a complete stranger. A few weeks later, she finds out she’s pregnant.

At its core, this is part romantic comedy, part coming-of-age drama. Donna may not be at the age we usually associate with coming-of-age stories (she’s 27), but like last year’s “Frances Ha,” it poignantly touches on what it’s like to be an adult in age, but a few steps behind in maturity and experience; it nails exactly what it’s like to be at an age where you expect yourself to have everything figured out, but nevertheless find yourself lost.

Slate plays Donna with breezy vulnerability; she’s so comfortable in the role that one feels like they know her sense of humor and mannerisms like they would an old friend. And while the humor is a bit one-note, mostly revolving around flatulence and female genitalia, it still manages to come off as endearing because it fits this character that we’ve quickly come to love so well.

In this day and age, the topic at the center of “Obvious Child” should hardly be noteworthy. But in a time ripe with movies like “Juno,” “Knocked Up,” and “Bella,” and television shows like “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” it can’t help but stick out. And while the aforementioned movies feature worthy, heartwarming stories, they’re part of a Hollywood trend that only shows one side of a very real, everyday situation. “Obvious Child” comes at a crucial time to fill that missing gap in cinema with an honesty and maturity regarding abortion that I had never before seen on screen until now.

Rating: B+

"Obvious Child" is now in theaters. For showtimes in Miami Beach, click here

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