A comedy is meant to make the audience laugh, but a good one takes an uncomfortable subject and finds the humor in it. Topics like death and illness aren’t typically known for being a comedic goldmine, but have been the catalyst for classic comedy films. Controversial topics like abortion falls into this same category. The new release “Obvious Child” proves that showing uncomfortable topics in a comedic light can make them easier to digest.
A hit at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, “Obvious Child” opens as Donna’s life is falling apart. Her boyfriend breaks up with her by announcing that he’s sleeping with her friend, and then her boss tells her that the bookstore where she works is closing. In response, she has a public breakdown during one of her stand-up comedy routines. Afterwards, Donna (Jenny Slate) meets Max (Jake Lacy, “The Office”) and the pair proceed to have a drunken one night stand. Adding to her quickly growing list of problems, Donna finds out she is pregnant. Unready to be a mother, Donna decides to have an abortion – scheduling it for Valentine’s Day.
Slate, who spent a year on “Saturday Night Live,” offers an endearing look at the aimless Donna, who is stuck in a rut. The actress brings a vulnerability to the role, which makes Donna both relatable and sympathetic. Just as important, Slate has crackling chemistry with Lacy.
What is most interesting about the film is how casually it deals with its topic. Director and co-writer, Gillian Robespierre doesn't bother going the traditional route of having her characters spend half of the film debating what to do about the unborn fetus. Instead, it is decided immediately that Donna will get an abortion. In the film, Donna’s reality is one where most of the females she knows have already had abortions.
Regardless of the subject matter, the film is bound to have a limited appeal. It is an intimate film with an indie sensibility, quirky humor, and more than a subtle feminist leaning. Robespierre attempts to make this easier to swallow by wrapping it all up in a romantic comedy bow, but it might not be enough to expand its audience base.
“Obvious Child” is tackling a topic that is usually reserved for serious dramas like “If These Walls Could Talk” and deals with it with a healthy sense of humor. It also reflects a change in the societal norm by not dwelling on the argument between pro-life and pro-choice. It might not be the most obvious choice for laughs, but it’s definitely one you won’t regret.