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
Hadn’t come across this one before. I’ll give it a go! Great review (as always!)
Thank you very much! I can imagine this one striking a strong chord; it’s a very well balanced film with some great dialogue. Well worth checking out.
Great review, but I don’t think I laughed once in this. A really, very, unfunny film (in my humble opinion).
Isn’t it interesting how things hit us all differently. Like much of Woody Allen’s stuff, I didn’t find myself laughing out loud, more nodding in amusement at some of the observations and little bits of incidental dialogue.
Absolutely. Humour is subjective – as I said in the review, it didn’t make it a bad film, just not one I found funny. I would have preferred a more serious film tackling these issues, or an extremely funny film instead – but it teetered on safety between the two.
It’s done well though, and I hope it means Jenny Slate goes on to make more movies after this.
Always on my watch-list this one, definitely will give this a try!
I urge you to – the dialogue is razor-sharp and the characters are likeable.
Good review! I’ll have to give this one a watch at some point.
Thank you very much – my to-see list is already stretching well into next year. We’re spoiled by all the great movies out there.
Thanks for the heads up. I missed that one when it came here in France. I am going to look for it when it comes on DVD. Nice review.
Thank you very much. I just saw it on Netflix. I’m not sure if it is playing in your region – but well worth a look.
Between your review and my fanship (Is that a word?) of Jenny, I will track this one down. I do so prefer com over rom in rom-com combos. (My apologies; that last sentence sounds really weird if said out loud.)
No apology necessary, my aim is to now work this awesome sentence in a conversation before the week is out…I’ll let you know if I succeed. And yes, Jenny is great! 🙂