Film

Mating Rituals of the Millennial

Abortion Gets Rom-Comical in Obvious Child

Mating Rituals of the Millennial

OBVIOUS CHILD A comedy about finding the guy you want and the baby you don’t.

Obvious Child will always be known, first and foremost, as "the abortion comedy." That's the pitch, the premise, and the novelty of writer/director Gillian Robespierre's great new film: It's about a young woman who has an abortion and doesn't feel bad about it. In defiance of every film trope about abortion, which insist that soul-searching and guilt must necessarily accompany a legal medical procedure, there's no equivocating about whether terminating a pregnancy makes sense for Obvious Child's main character. She doesn't agonize over her decision, she doesn't feel guilty, she doesn't pledge to write a letter to her aborted fetus on its birthday every year. She's single, unemployed, and ambitious—of course she's going to get an abortion.

But Obvious Child isn't content to simply portray abortion as the medical procedure that it is: Here, the consequences of an unprotected hookup essentially provide the "cute" in a topsy-turvy millennial meet-cute where drunken sex, pregnancy tests, and Planned Parenthood waiting rooms all come before deciding if you really even like someone.

Jenny Slate plays Donna, a standup comedian with a confessional, no-holds-barred delivery style. After a bad breakup, she has a one-night stand with Max (Jake Lacy), a cute, doofy guy she meets at the comedy club. And when she gets pregnant as a result, she struggles to decide if she should tell Max about the abortion she's planning to get.

Donna is played beautifully by Slate, an SNL short-timer (remember, she said "fucking" on-air during her debut sketch?) who's still probably best known as the creator/voice of the short film Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. (Bonus for Slate fans: Her longtime comedic partner Gabe Liedman essentially plays himself in Obvious Child.) With Donna, Slate delivers a resolutely multifaceted female lead: charming, fucked-up, smart. By contrast, Max is pure needy-hipster-chick wish fulfillment: adorable, dorky, and gainfully employed. He's a teddy bear with an erection, and he definitely could've used about six more minutes of character development. His reaction to Donna's big pregnancy reveal is the least plausible element of a film that otherwise feels staunchly committed to realism.

There was a time when it would've seemed revolutionary for a movie to open with a woman telling jokes about the goopy state of her panties at the end of the day. (During the drunken hookup scene, a close-up on Donna's underwear lets us know she's ovulating—a shot I'm pretty sure is totally without precedent in the history of film.) But we've reached peak White Girl: The experiences of neurotic millennial women—even the gross experiences—no longer feel like fresh territory, thanks to shows like Girls, Broad City, and Inside Amy Schumer. I never would've predicted, five years ago, that I'd eventually grow tired of relating to movies and TV, but Obvious Child is probably the last slice-of-hipster-girl-life my heart has room for. Thanks to its treatment of abortion, though—a fact-of-life subject for many women that's almost never treated matter-of-factly on film—Obvious Child elbowed its way in and then proceeded to completely transcend its premise. It's a fresh, funny little rom-com: warm, creatively vulgar, and unapologetic in covering new ground. recommended

 

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Auragasm 1
Speaking of white girl problems, I thought this quote from Jenji Cohen about OITNB was sad/funny. And I thought it provided insight as to why her protagonists are often unlikable.

"In a lot of ways Piper was my Trojan Horse. You're not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, Latina women, old women and criminals. The girl next door, the cool blonde, is a very easy access point, and it's relatable for a lot of audiences and networks looking for a certain demographic. It's useful."

Naughty White girls: The NEW Demographic! Haha. You're not really tired of it, are you? Give me more raunchy girl-led comedies about fuck-ups. And more diverse ensembles, sure, but it's better than women characters reduced to the hero's love interest or the hero's mom. I think the problem is that the movie execs are obsessed with portraying middle to high class people in comedies for the best escapism.

This sounds like a good movie, and modern as far as romcoms go, to stay on topic. I'll check it out.
Posted by Auragasm on June 18, 2014 at 10:21 AM · Report this
2
Wow, it only takes three realistic shows featuring white women telling stories to make us sick of ourselves? Think of how sick to death white men must feel.

Oh wait, we don't set limits on the creative output of white men telling stories about themselves, do we?
Posted by Internalized sexism is the worst on June 18, 2014 at 12:21 PM · Report this
3
@2 And I've never even heard of two of the three shows mentioned. I think media saturation is a long way away.
Posted by ratzkywatzky on June 19, 2014 at 12:46 PM · Report this
4
Yay, Jenji!

In the second season of Orange and Black, once you get past the first episode -- the skinny blond white chick is the backdrop for the main players: the women of color and oldsters, and it's that much more fabulous than the first season.

Better written, better acted, more of a joy all round: so take that TV and movie executives.
Posted by judybrowni on June 19, 2014 at 2:45 PM · Report this
5
And yeah 40 years later, it's about time we had a rom com including abortion.
Posted by judybrowni on June 19, 2014 at 2:46 PM · Report this
6
#1and#4 - Yay Jenji indeed! I had to wait until I was 70 to see a show about women this revolutionary?! Damn! OITNB rocks with all kinds of women- and brings one of the first true transsexual women to the screen in a major role.
Perhaps one reason an abortion rom/com was a while coming is because of the Pro-Lifers, who have turned abortion and clinic providers into virtually, in some states, a matter of harassment, shame-making, and of course also a matter of life-and-death (i.e., Dr. Tiller and others).
Posted by leftist on June 22, 2014 at 8:39 AM · Report this

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