Obvious Child (2014)
Director: Gillian Robespierre
As romantic-comedies have been treated appallingly by mainstream Hollywood, with its by-the-numbers plotting and forgettable characters, the better examples of this once great genre have been in the independent side of the industry. I cannot imagine Katherine Heigl, or even Judd Apatow writing a story quite like this (Apatow may appear to push boundaries, but his approach is distinctly male and ultimately traditional). We have a young woman deciding to abort a foetus, the result of a casual hook-up. The problem is that the young man likes her, and she rather likes him. So, does she tell him?
Billy Mernit, writer of the book Writing the Romantic Comedy, says that the central question of any romantic-comedy is will the couple get together. This question drives the plot, and creates the tension. While the central question for Obvious Child could have been 'will she get the abortion?', this is the one part of the film we, and Donna, are certain of. She is the person the title refers to, and is really not ready to be a mother. Instead we wonder if she will tell him, and will it stop them getting together.
The 'side' characters are also great, particularly Donna's best friend Nellie and Donna's mother, who happens to be Max's teacher. The moment Donna tells her mother about her pregnancy is one of the best in the film, and one of the best mother-daughter scenes I have seen on film in a long time.
Jenny Slate is nicely grubby as Donna; her comedy style is not really to my taste, but the film uses her sets well to explore how she reasons things out with herself. Jake Lacey is sweetly attractive as Max; you understand Donna interest in him, and her fear about telling him about being pregnant. I enjoyed this unique take on the romantic comedy. The best comedy often comes out of serious and dramatic situations, and Robspierre handles it well. There are some discussions about abortion, but this is not a political film, except for the matter-of-fact way it approches abortion, which is as something that some women will experience.