The Hollywood way of dealing with unplanned pregnancy has typically been to have a female character blissfully bond with her womanhood through childbirth. But in Gillian Robespierre’s revolutionary ‘Obvious Child’, abortion is sympathetically presented as a sensible option, with consistent delight and hilarious, raunchy humour. (‘Shmashmortion’ is all the characters in the 2007 comedy ‘Knocked Up’ could manage to utter about the A-word).
The film gives us Donna Stern (the irresistible, pitch-perfect Jenny Slate), a twentysomething New Yorker who antagonises crowds as a stand-up comic with earnest jokes about bodily fluids and being Jewish. At first it looks like a conventional romcom of polar opposites – especially after Donna 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 taking control of her own destiny.
Softened by an attractive soundtrack that includes the Carter Family’s well-placed ‘Single Girl, Married Girl’ (and the Paul Simon song of the title), ‘Obvious Child’ has a loud agenda that will annoy some. Still, it’s a welcome counterpoint to the likes of ‘Knocked Up’ and ‘Juno’, where the abortion route is not to be thought of. And despite its controversial topic, it manages to be desperately romantic. Maybe that’s the biggest shock of all.