SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2014
By Don Simpson | January 25, 2014
Director: Gillian Robespierre
Writers: Gillian Robespierre, Karen Maine, Elisabeth Holm, Anna Bean
Starring: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann, Gabe Liedman, David Cross, Richard Kind, Polly Draper, Paul Briganti, Cindy Cheung, Stephen Singer
A bookstore clerk by day and comedian by night, Donna’s (Jenny Slate) life is sent into a tailspin when her boyfriend admits to sleeping with one of her close friends; but at least that event provides Donna with some fresh material for her bluntly autobiographical stand-up routine. Donna turns to alcohol to drown her sorrows, totally giving up on life. When the righteously indie bookstore that employs her loses its lease, Donna’s life seems all the more hopeless. Even her gig as a comedian could be at risk if she does not learn how to curb her emotionally driven binge drinking.
On one fatefully drunken night, the snarky Jewess makes cute with a WASPy guy, Max (Jake Lacy). Sensing that his Christian values will dissuade Max from wanting to date a vocally rebellious Jewish woman, Donna perceives this night as a fun, one-night stand. Unfortunately for Donna, the repercussions of their night together haunt her until Valentine’s Day.
Obvious Child is a well-paced comedy packed with a steady stream of hilarious jokes, yet the film also carries a strong and unwavering opinion on its subject matter. While the subject of this film may chase some potential audiences away, Obvious Child does such an admirable job of presenting its case that it could actually change some minds if audiences would just give it a fighting chance.
The strongest tension with Obvious Child is its relentless rebellion against American cinema’s representation of this subject matter. We anxiously await the all too standard redemption trope, for Donna to listen to the old white men who attempt to legislate away her inherent rights to her own body. Few filmmakers are bold and brazen enough to discuss this subject with such openness. Everything is laid out on the table in such a way that Donna’s one and only choice seems like an obvious one. There is absolutely no valid excuse for her mistake and Donna knows that, but there is also no reason for her to punish herself or anyone else involved. Ill-equipped and immature, Donna is by no means emotionally prepared to make any other decision. Our society, thanks in no small part to Hollywood’s representation of this subject, seems to think Donna is in the minority, but this is actually an all too common scenario. Donna makes the same life-changing mistake that so many others have made, including her mother. (While the story that comes along with her mother’s admission to being stuck in a similar situation in the 1960s seems to be a gross exaggeration of history, there are more than enough merits within Obvious Child to forgive this minor faux pas.)