Having a female protagonist blissfully bond with her womanhood through childbirth has typically been the Hollywood way of dealing with unplanned pregnancy. But in Gillian Robespierre’s revolutionary Obvious Child, abortion (not “shmashmortion”) is sympathetically presented as a sensible option, with consistent delight and hilarious, raunchy humor.
Following Donna Stern (the irresistible, pitch-perfect Jenny Slate), a twentysomething Brooklynite who antagonizes crowds as a stand-up comedian with earnest jokes about her bodily fluids and Jewishness, the movie first suggests a conventional rom-com of polar opposites—especially after she falls into bed with smitten, buttoned-down Max (Jake Lacy). Yet the rules of its game are refreshingly different, driven for a change by a complex woman empowered to take control of her own destiny.
Leavened by an attractive soundtrack that includes the Carter Family’s well-placed “Single Girl, Married Girl” (and the Paul Simon song that gives the film its title), Obvious Child has a loud agenda that will be off-putting to some. Still, it’s a welcome counterpoint to the likes of Knocked Up and even Juno, where the abortion route is an apparent no-go. And despite its controversial topic, it manages to be desperately romantic—maybe the biggest shock of all.
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