Obvious Child (A24, R)

obvious sqThe script is riddled with poop and fart jokes, which I’m totally an unapologetic fan of, and the cast is hugely likeable.

 

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It seems like the romantic comedy is the most-hated genre in modern cinema. Nearly everyone loves to talk about how bad romantic comedies are, and how terrible they all are. Where this falls short, though, is that most people do like some romantic comedies, but just don’t see the ones they like as such. Anything from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to Chungking Express to Forgetting Sarah Marshall are essentially slight riffs on the genre, and also very good films, but the people who like them are by and large are blind to the fact that, at their heart, these films are basically romantic comedies; just better ones than most of what Hollywood produces.

Gillian Robespierre’s new film Obvious Child is another we can add to the list of good romantic comedies, and it amusingly hits us over the head with the fact that it is in fact a romantic comedy at every chance it gets so that we can’t ever forget that fact, from the epic dumping at the beginning of the film to the meet-cute between the female and male leads early in the film to the obstacles that keep them apart for most of the film. The main obstacle in Obvious Child is that, after their one night stand post-meet-cute, Donna (Jenny Slate) finds out she’s pregnant with Max (Jake Lacy)’s baby, wants to get an abortion, and struggles with whether she should track him down and tell him or not.

The marketing for Obvious Child has been playing up the fact that it’s an abortion-themed romantic comedy, and in that way it stands as a counterpoint to films like Knocked Up and Juno, which films film critic Amy Taubin suggested were racing to see which could dismiss the idea of getting an abortion the quickest. Obvious Child plays the abortion card smartly, too—it’s unwavering on Donna’s conviction to get one, and the film plays a little politically, but never heavy-handedly or intrusively so; you never feel like you’re being lectured.

And all of this really is given a chance to work by the fact that the film is actually funny. The script is riddled with poop and fart jokes, which I’m totally an unapologetic fan of, and the cast is hugely likeable. Everyone seems to agree that this film is going to make Jenny Slate a star, and I’m not inclined to disagree with that argument. She’s very funny and relatable, and it’s fun to spend the movie with her. Elsewhere, Lacy (Pete from The Office) sells the nice Christian boy image that’s so important to Max’s character, Gaby Hoffman (Crystal Fairy & the Magic Cactus) is convincing as Donna’s more-militant friend Nellie, David Cross is appropriately skeezy as an older comic who has long harbored an aggressive crush on Donna, and Gabe Liedman is a lot of fun as Donna’s Gay Best Friend, one of the more glaring tropes of the romantic comedy genre.

In an ideal situation, Obvious Child will wake some people up to the fact that they do like romantic comedies, so long as they’re good ones. The denial about this is so strong, though, that I doubt that that will happen. I have no trouble imagining a situation where most people that see this movie will like it, though, at least. | Pete Timmermann

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