Obvious Child (2014) Directed by Gillian Robespierre. With Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Polly Draper, Richard Kind, Gaby Hoffman, Stephen Singer and Gabe Liedman.
Co-written and directed by Gillian Robespierre (her debut offering), Obvious Child is a New York-based independent comedy-drama about Donna Stern (Jenny Slate), a stand-up comedienne/librarian whose personal life takes a nosedive when she is unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend after one of her late night gigs. Not only that, she then gets six-weeks notice that the book-store at which she works is due for closure. Life, it would seem, is a bitch.
Factor in the stand-up-comedy, the New York setting and the biting observations on life and love – and you’d be forgiven for thinking this might be something of a Woody Allen tribute act. The good news is, Robespierre’s script is funny enough (with a sure quotient of whimsy) to withstand the inevitable comparisons. Furthermore, Jenny Slate’s central turn oozes with that bullet-proof confidence that you’d expect of someone who’s comfortable standing up in front of a crowd with a microphone to make people laugh – yet outside of her act, she struggles to make emotional ends meet as life appears to conspire against her. Slate’s energy and smart-arsed comic delivery are counter-balanced by her inability to get the basics of life right – which makes her human and relatable.
This being a contemporary indie movie, we have the now obligatory peppering of acoustic guitar-led, incidental transition shots. If it wasn’t so well-written, this is exactly the sort of thing that might have you mentally conjure one of those vomit-inducing dating ads – but character and script are good enough to pave over such minor offences. Refreshingly, the best people in Donna’s life seem to be her divorced parents. Her Dad (Richard Kind) is like a goofier extension her, while her Mum (Polly Draper) is at first presented as a little more conservative – but is thankfully fleshed-out with layers. Along the way, she interacts with friends until she meets Max (Jake Lacy) – which is where the central arc of her story takes hold.
Although billed as a rom-com, there’s more com than rom. The second-half of the film takes an unexpected route that culminates in an ending that you won’t find in the traditional fare of the genre. What precedes it is like a gritty version of the TV show, Sex and the City meets Woody Allen. That’s a combination I can happily get along with. 3.5/5