New comedy Obvious Child takes on the hot-button issue of abortion with tenacity while still being accessible.
Obvious Child has all the makings of your standard romantic comedy—the bad breakup, the quirky best friend, the new guy. Fortunately it goes out of the usual boundaries and into the swept-under-the-rug topic of abortion, a subject that popular culture tends to avoid even though it's something one in three women in the U.S. will experience. The story revolves around Donna Stern who's played by actress and comedian Jenny Slate. Throughout the film, we watch Donna perform stand-up comedy with material taken from her own life. In her acts, Donna reveals some very personal details which causes her some problems, but it's also honest and usually hilarious.
Needless to say, Donna gets pregnant after having a one-night stand. The suspense of the film isn't if she is going to have an abortion, but how it will be handled. What makes the film strong is the balancing act it plays; while Donna can certainly be a bit outrageous, the abortion is approached in a relatively matter of fact manner. We watch as she goes to the initial appointment, converses with her friend about her concerns, and wonders how she will cover the $500 procedure since she doesn't have insurance.
Of the film, Slate says, "Just because it’s not a tragedy for Donna to have an abortion doesn’t mean it’s not a complex experience. I think a lot of women feel like they have to be militant when it comes to abortion. We’re not just fighting for the right to have one, we’re fighting for the right to have that complex experience." The film began as a short that was released on the internet by writer and director Gillian Robespierre. She went on to develop it into a feature film, filling out Donna’s story as well as supporting characters. She says, “This isn’t a hard decision for her [Donna] to make, but it’s still hard to go through. I’ve had women say to me: ‘Thank you. I was feeling guilty for not feeling guilty.’”
While some of the parts were a bit too neat for my taste (like having the procedure scheduled for Valentine’s Day), the film is worth seeing for its humor and its ability to take on a hot-button issue with tenacity while still being accessible.
Photo courtesy of A24 Films.