Donna (Jenny Slate) works in a book store by day, and as a stand up comic by night. When her boyfriend breaks up with her for sharing too many personal details in her act, Donna has a one night stand with Max (Jake Lacy), a sweet and gentle guy, who Donna would never normally go for. Donna falls pregnant from their brief tryst, and has to finally face the ideas of adulthood, woman hood and friendship head on.
Obvious Child is based on Gillian Robespierre’s 2009 short film, and is the director’s feature debut. Much of the cast – Jenny Slade, Jake Lacy and Gaby Hoffman – have made a name for themselves on the small screen, and their gentle and relatable performances are the heart of the film.
Jenny Slade is known to many as the brash and boisterous Mona Lisa in Parks and Recreation, and she channels her quick fire wit into her performance as Donna. As well as this, Slade makes the character familiar and engaging; we have all met girls like Donna, or been her in our 20s. Slade is funny and warm, while not being afraid to show vulnerability and fear. Jake Lacy makes Max a sweet but seemingly ‘vanilla’ guy, he comes into his own when crisis strikes, reminding Donna – and the audience – that nice guys do not always finish last. The rest of the cast is made up of Gabe Leidmann, Gaby Hoffman, Richard Kind and David Cross.
Karen Maine and Elisabeth Holm’s screenplay shines a light on the often-ignored phenomenon of the ‘Woman Child’. Donna is confident and self assured until her world takes a tumble, so she clambers back into bed with her mum for reassurance and comfort. That said, although Donna is shaken to her core by her unexpected pregnancy, she does manage to find strength and comedy in the situation, although she may not handle it as well as she could have. The film stumbles a little in terms of pacing, as it is sometimes unclear as to where the story is going.
Robespierre directs competently, allowing Slade’s natural comedic talents to shine. The film may feels a little like an extended, crisis episode of Girls, but Slade, while brash at times, is always endearing and relatable.
Obvious Child may be a little bit of a mess in terms of pacing and focus, but Jenny Slade is fantastic in the leading role, the story is relatable, engaging, and finds the comedy in a dark and emotionally overwhelming situation. Improvements could be made, but in the meantime, keep an eye out for Slade and Robespierre.