One of the many ingredients that so many romantic-comedies are missing today is the element of truth: truth in the dialogue, truth in its characters and truth in the scenarios the characters are put in. If there is one thing that is obvious about Gillian Robespierre debut feature film Obvious Child, it is that the truth be the guiding light for characters in the film and the film itself.
Obvious Child could best be described as the anti-romantic-comedy, yet, its roots are very much brooding in the realm of the girl-centric, highly profitable genre. Yet, there is nothing highly alluring to Robespierre’s truthfully crude comedy where a young comedienne shares the embarrassing exploits of her life, her bowel movements, her crusty underwear and her insecurities as a young twenty-something living in a desolate, hipster filled New York City.
Jenny Slate, whom I only know from the HBO show House of Lies, plays the twenty-something young comedienne. Slate wouldn’t seem to fit the role by simply reading the script, but from page-to screen, Slate does a surprisingly great job as a young, lost independent, creatively misunderstood soul unleashing herself to the world and the loved ones around her.
The beginning of Donna Stern’s (Slate) problems begin with her smelly, cheating boyfriend Ryan (Paul Briganti) dumping her and also admitting to her that he has been cheating on her with her best friend. Donna, who reacts almost like anyone else would, consuming a crap load of alcohol, moaning to friends and family and being miserable in any way possible, cinematically makes the break-up a lot more dramatic that it needs to be, especially since the foundation of Ryan and Donna’s relationship is never seen or bonded with its audience. The break-up scene is literally the second scene in the film, so we don’t empathize much with Donna. Sure enough, what’s the best way to mend a broken heart? Sex! And what better way to get back with your ex than to hook up with Max (Jake Lacy), the most straight laced, squared-jaw guy anyone would find at a scuzzy bar in Brooklyn. Robespierre’s dialogue does tread the line between originally inventive and subliminally juvenile, as the two’s meet-cute begins by noticing each others “pee pee missiles”, but hey, someone must have liked that line. Like any good drunken, dumped sex scheme, things don’t necessarily go to plan, and a few weeks later, Donna’s discomforting boobs lead to a pregnancy test with positive results. Perhaps not so positive for Donna.
Abortion comedies are a very sensitive topic for me, seeing that one of my favourite comedies of all time, Knocked Up, dealt with the topic and the disastrous results of unwanted, drunken hook-ups. Although the film was funded and aided with the help of a big studio, the film dealt with the realities of people trying to make things work, when things aren’t obviously working around them. The beauty about a film like Obvious Child is that such a small, indie film never gets the pressures of big studio execs breathing down their throat, therefore, the film is able to venture off into very crude and appallingly real, taboo territory of female sexuality, cleanliness and comedy.
For the most part, Slate is excellent as Donna, a character whose journey of self-discovery and female empowerment begins the moment she gets up on the stage. One of the most obviously enjoyable parts of the film are Donna’s stints of comedy on-stage. Her truthful, almost confessional type comedy is the basis of Robespierre’s feature success, and brings up some of the most laughs for its audiences. It was a nice touch to see a new director handle stand-up comedy scenes gracefully and adequately edit them into the troubled world of a young girl who knows nothing about life. Donna’s best stand-up scene is when she confronts the revelations of that fateful night, which turns into a therapeutic lapse into the epic non-prophylactic judgement of two people and the issues they must face or would face for the rest of their lives.
Donna’s life is the basis of her comedy, and although her life is nothing to really roll on the ground, dying of laughter, her take on the realities of everyday life allow for the film to take small, hysterical turns for a relatable brand of female humour. Women all over the theatre were unable to contain their laughter. But although the film barely runs ninety minutes, one cannot help but notice how much the use of awkward silence and awkwardness accounts for the comedy, which at times took me away from the film. I am no fan or avid-watcher of Lena Dunham’s Girls, but if a feature film of the popular HBO series were to be made into a movie, I am pretty sure it would look something similar to Obvious Child.
The uncomfortable realities of independent womanhood are the basis of Obvious Child’s success as an independent feature. With an underlining motto of being “unapologetically yourself” despite your off-timing and overly crude jokes, the film is a mantra for the many urban women whose beaten up life in the city offers heartfelt laughs out of raw comedy. Energetic, spunky and never dull, Slate brings new life to likeable female characters whose delivery of crude comedic truth may turn off some, but inspire many.
At the end of the day, as sad as this sounds, the abortion really has nothing to do with the film other than offer a ripple effect of choices Donna must make in her life. The overall result of weather or not Donna goes through with it, means nothing. Instead, Obvious Child’s strengths lie in its matter-of-factness comedic style and blatant attempt to be unlike anything you may have seen that comedic deals with the subject of abortions. In that respect, the film is clear winner being a deeply honest, vulnerable and poignant account of one, everyday woman’s everyday life. As a revolutionary comedy, the film obviously has some growing up to do, but there is much hope and potential for writer/director Robespierre who I am sure will perfect her brand of comedy and deliver something away from the children’s section, and from adult section instead.
Night Film Reviews: 6.5 Stars Out of 10.
Was Obvious Child as good for you as it was for me? Is the film a female centric comedy that gets lost by men? Does Jenny Slate offer up a realistic and wondrous turn as Donna? Leave all your comments, thoughts and obvious remarks below!