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He Said, She Said Review Site

Obvious Child

What She said:


Here we go, another independent film. I never know exactly what to make of them. Sometimes they truly are as good as the critics seem to indicate. Other times, I feel like they’re over my head—like I just don’t get them.

Obvious Child is a rom-com about abortion. No really, it is, as if that’s actually possible. It tells the story of Donna Stern, a 30-year-old whose still struggling to find her way in life. She works at a bookstore by day and is a stand-up comedian by night. Her mother is a college professor, and apparently Donna was also quite a scholar, but she hasn’t really amounted to much thus far. She’s kind of sloppy, doesn’t really care about anything meaningful, is selfish, and drinks, a lot.

Obvious Child

Donna hits a particularly rough patch when her boyfriend breaks up with her (he’s been cheating) and she finds out that the bookstore will be closing; thus, she’ll be out of a job in just a few short weeks. A bad night of overdrinking leads to a one-night stand with a pretty decent guy who she picks up at a bar. About three weeks later she realizes the inevitable—she’s pregnant. Donna’s life feels like it’s crashing in on her. She decides that abortion is her best option, and the procedure is scheduled for Valentine’s Day, just a few weeks away. The film follows Donna during the intervening days as she struggles to come to terms with the current state of her life and the decision that she’s made. Along the way, she seems to grow up a little and finds out that the bonds of her family and friends are stronger than she had imagined.

Obvious Child

So where do you get the rom-com in that storyline? I don’t really know. This movie bills itself as a rom-com, and there is some comedy (if the jokes actually jive for you), but there isn’t a whole lot of romance. Max, Donna’s one-night stand does reappear quite a few times in the film, but we don’t get much of that “warm your heart” kind of romance from this movie. I would say this film is much more of a dramedy about Donna’s journey. There isn’t a whole lot of plot to this, and we’re left to just see the events of Donna’s life unfold. Some are more consequential than others. On the upside, there’s something genuine about Donna, her family, and her friends. They are in no way relatable to me, and I don’t think I’d like them if we ever met, but they do feel real. On the downside, we have the whole dark cloud theme of abortion floating over the entire production.

How much you enjoy this film will likely hinge on your sense of humor and also where you stand on the very divisive topic of abortion. The film tries to walk a delicate line between being pro-choice but also respectful of how emotionally painful abortion can be. I’ll say, I think that, despite its efforts, it did clearly fall to one side of that line, which is why it will not work for everyone. But it’s also not an outwardly political film.

Obvious Child

While I found the movie interesting, I also don’t think that enough really happened to make it all that memorable. Donna’s personal growth was a little too subtle for the viewer to really feel. And the poop jokes got old after the first half hour of the film. There was some substance underneath the comedy, but I don’t think that it was strong or deep enough to be effective. A good effort was made, but this film inevitably fell short.

Donna is extremely immature, and straddles the fence between being unlikable and tolerable. It’s obvious that in her mind the world revolves around all things Donna, and that is her huge tragic flaw. However, she’s not a bad person, through and through. She has the naivety of a child, and seems to be genuinely unaware of her effect on other people. Jenny Slate embodies the character well—to the point where I’m assuming that she may be very much like Donna in real life. In fact, all of the actors seemed to rather effortlessly take on their on-screen personas.

I cannot say that I either liked or disliked this film. It had its good and bad moments, which is why, overall, I was just sort of meh. This is one of those movies that will really depend on the viewer. I’m just going to forget about it and move on.

Thumbs half up.

What He said:


Nothing says comedy like abortion. That’s what this movie claims anyway. Yes ladies and gentleman, this really is romantic comedy – of all things – about a woman who is considering an abortion when she finds out she’s pregnant.

Obvious Child

Donna (Jenny Slate) is one of those people who hasn’t really figured it out yet – and by it I mean anything and everything. Her career is going nowhere. She is a struggling comedian who supplements her income by working at a bookstore. She likes to use her comedy as a forum for venting about life.

Take her relationship  with her boyfriend for example. She’s in a relationship, at least for the first few minutes of the movie, but doesn’t really seem to want to be. Her boyfriend dumps her after she mocks their relationship on stage, which seems to be a regular thing with her. He confesses to cheating on her, so it’s not like he’s blameless, but you can see why he doesn’t really want to be with her. Their relationship comes off like they each threw darts at a wall and decided to date whoever’s name the dart landed on. Donna isn’t shy about saying that in her routine either. While he should have just broken up with her sooner, I can see why someone mocking the fact that she’s settling for you might be a bit of turn off.

It’s interesting that she takes being dumped so hard considering how apathetic she seems to be about him. As a result, she gets hammered at the bar she does stand up at and goes home with a new guy named Max.

Her and Max hit it off (alcohol plays a huge role) and they go back to his apartment. You can figure out the rest. She wakes up before him the next morning and shamefully sneaks out of his apartment.

Max (Jake Lacy) reaches out to her several times after they hook up, but she blows him off because he’s too nice, a Christian (and she seemingly is not), not screwed up or dirty enough? It’s one of those situations where she has no real valid reason to not give the guy a chance and goes out of her way to make herself unhappy or create drama. It’s sort of like an episode of Girls. There’s a lot of whining, moping and, sulking from the main character.

Obvious Child

She eventually realizes that she is pregnant. She talks to her friends and mother about it and has a decision to make. Not whether or not to have the abortion, but to tell Max about her decision. That’s basically the remainder of the movie.
I would say abortion isn’t funny, but this isn’t a matter of opinion. Abortion is not funny. Nothing about it is funny. Ending a life is not funny.  What the woman getting the abortion has to go through is not funny either. It’s not an amusing thing for anyone involved of affected by it. When the abortion was revealed to be the focal point of the story, which wasn’t right away wither, the movie lost me.

It’s not like the movie had a real strong grasp on me to begin with. Donna is not the most likeable person in the world. She’s immature, selfish, and whiny. She’s not somebody that you really want to watch. There’s nothing compelling or interesting about her. Not every protagonist has to be likeable, but she’s not interesting either, and is actually barely above annoying most of the time.

The movie’s humor is also very hit or miss. There were several times I laughed. There were a few where I laughed quite hard. But there were more where I didn’t laugh at all. The humor was very repetitive and limited (there way too many poop jokes for a movie that is attempting to tackle a serious issue).

This movie was a media darling. It was one of those independent movies that didn’t receive a lot of attention, but amongst critics and the film festival circuit it was praised for being some great piece of art. It’s not. It’s not brave or poignant. It’s immature and whiny. It’s representative of a generation that likes to complain about how hard everything is, as if nobody else prior to them had to cope with the many issues life throws at us. This movie only got praise because of what it was about, not because of how it was executed. Without getting political, this is a wannabe intellectual/profound film that was deemed bold by people who think talking about abortion – particularly if it’s in alignment with their own views – is worthy of praise. This movie didn’t examine the complicated decisions and emotional issues surrounding abortion, it simply pushed the agenda of all those involved. Brave is going outside your comfort zone and this movie did anything but that. A well-rounded examination of this issue, with a dash of humor (an outright comedy about it was just off), would have been welcome.

Rating: Thumbs down.  

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on February 4, 2015.