I’m just going to be honest here; I was really anxious about seeing this. Abortion is not a light subject. It’s not really something I can get behind, at all. In fact, when that Duggar girl was under fire a few weeks ago for likening abortion to the Holocaust, I was one of the ones who tweeted “she’s right”. I am unapologetically pro-life and will always, ALWAYS be that way. Now, I know that many will not find my viewpoint politically correct, but it’s my viewpoint so deal with it.
That being said, I’ve seen films on the subject before. In fact, my favorite film (favorite being codename for ‘film I think is the best’ and not necessarily a film I would actually desire to be entertained with) of 2007 was the soul-wrecking ‘4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days’ which was, you guessed it, about abortion. For me, that film and it’s detached approach and ambiguous ending made it such a remarkable study on the subject, no matter what side of the debate you are on. But ‘Obvious Child’ was touted as that comedy about abortion, and quite frankly I don’t think abortion is funny, at all.
I didn’t want to see this.
All that said, I kind of felt like I needed to see this movie. The raves were pouring in, and it isn’t the first (and it won’t be the last) where I fight my seeming better judgment to see something that everyone else adores so that I can settle on my own opinion about it. I’ll either be won over (on the film, not the position it takes) and have nice things to say about it, or I’ll have a nice new film to tear to shreds.
I loved this movie!
First, the stance on abortion is not the point here, which is why I think I connected to this so strongly. This isn’t a film about abortion, it just so happens to have an abortion in the mix. This is the story about a young woman trying desperately to weed through the crap in her life and find a way to sort it all out in a beneficial manner. This is a story about choices and assumptions and frustrations and conundrums and finding a way to make it all work out in the long run. Sure, everyone in this movie seems perfectly fine with murdering a baby, but that really isn’t the point.
Yes, I went there.
‘Obvious Child’ is clever, because it allows this situation to be a metaphorical position, something to really represent everything else. This is less about an abortion and more about the anxieties within life that need to be aborted. Donna, a twenty-something comedian fresh off a split from her longtime boyfriend, is in need of some emotional support. She’s weighed down by this feeling of failure and this pained fear of being a disappointment. She’s lost her job, lost her boyfriend, at odds with her mother, emotionally supporting her father and pretty much feeling drained and empty. Then she gets drunk, meets a ‘nice guy’ and gets pregnant. Suddenly, the flood of emotion comes crushing back down on her. How is she going to handle this, with him, for herself, in her life? Just another disappointing moment and in that instance her decision to abort the baby and say nothing was made. Things get sticky when the ‘nice guy’ actively pursues a relationship with Donna, and the weight of her impending procedure and the guilt of not having informed him of her position make it difficult for her to actually move on with her life, which is exactly what she is trying to do.
‘Obvious Child’ is a story about growing up, making tough choices and becoming less of an ‘obvious child’. In that regard, it works beautifully. If ever a character seems as though it was written directly for a specific actor/actress so as to benefit from their persona, it was the character of Donna Stern written for Jenny Slate. Slate is astonishingly human here, reminding me a lot of Greta Gerwig in her ability to play up her own quirk in a way that feels natural and relatable.
So, no, I don’t agree with Donna’s decision. I can’t. I won’t; ever. But, as a film, to me this wasn’t preaching ABORTION IS OK. This is, in a way, about the death of a child, but a less obvious one, and it is that facet of this film that I found so richly fascinating.
I give this an A. I really wish that a serious Oscar campaign would happen for Slate, who is astonishing here, but outside of a Spirit nom, I don't see anything happening for her. I'd love for her to get a Comedy Globe nod, but I highly doubt that will happen. Still, for me, she's aces and deserves the attention she's been getting for this.