Do we have to give Obvious Child bonus points for its daring choice to center a romantic comedy on a woman’s decision to have an abortion? Not when it persists in substituting outrageousness for funniness.
Like the standup comedy of protagonist Donna (Jenny Slate), the movie is relying on the dichotomy of hearing potty-mouthed lines spew from the mouth of a sweet-faced 20-something to produce its laughs. Donna’s act isn’t so much a well-structured routine of jokes and punch-lines as it the solipsistic musings of an arrested-adolescent millennial who’s been raised in a world that’s taught her that reality-TV-show-type confessionals are a valued form of entertainment.
Director-writer Gillian Robespierre seems to suffer from the same delusion, seeing how she depicts an audience laughing uproariously at Donna’s public airing of her own dirty laundry (in one case, literally, a detailed description of her soiled underpants.) I’ve never been to Brooklyn, but if this film is an accurate depiction of its people and their favored entertainment options, I gather I’m not missing much.
As for the hot-button issue itself, for much of the film it takes a back seat to a fairly unoriginal rom-com story arc, in which Donna meets cute with a straitlaced business bro named Max (Jake Lacy, of the last season of The Office) and has what she thinks was a one-night stand. When she opts to have an abortion after ending up pregnant, she appears to give the decision all the consideration she might in scheduling her next tooth cleaning.
She does weigh her obligation to inform Max about his soon to be aborted potential offspring, and she feels that she should. However, the manner in which he ultimately finds out would be so humiliating and heartbreaking that any real-live human being would justifiably be pissed and think of Donna as some sort of sociopath.
Fortunately for her, this is a movie so in love with its own main character and convinced of her obvious charm and wit and talent that Max can’t be anything other than supportive of Donna and apologetic for his own behavior. Ugh.
Obvious Child makes the HBO show Girls seem like it’s populated by relatively well-adjusted people.