Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Obvious Child (2014) review

Rom-coms are not like they used to be. Gone is the aspirational characters, women wanting to "have it all", looking for love in the city while holding down a demanding job. As the industry would much rather produce action films and adapt young adult novels, the rom-com has become the favourite of indie crowd. For the modest sum of $1 million dollars, Gillian Robespierre's debut gives us a different flavour of rom-com, high on the comedy and with a much more sombre take on romance.

The inclusion of Jenny Slate as Donna is a smart move. There is not many people that could pull off an opening segment that describes the degradation of a lady's underwear into "looking like cottage cheese" by the end of the day. Her role as a stand up comedian in the film allows her to own her experiences and comment on them truthfully, instead of allowing the camera to dissect her troubles. We see Donna mocking her boyfriends and hers lacklustre sex life, only to then find out that he's dumping her for another woman, and to top it all off, the bookshop that she works in is shutting down. Yeah, really on the up.

So on a night out to forget her troubles, she meets Max (Jake Lacy). The awkward phase at the beginning of a relationship when you spend all your time holding in your wind is by passed when Max accidentally farts in Donna's face. Que a night of pogo-ing silliness and, of course, sex. So the one night stand comes and goes and, as Donna struggles to deal with the idea of her ex getting all couply with his new lover, she starts to notice some changes. Uh-oh, she's pregnant!

Where many films may make the idea of an unwanted pregnancy into a zany mess based on how unsuitable the people are to be expecting, Donna is pretty certain that she wants an abortion. These scenes are film with sincerity and the sensitivity it deserves. Whereas any other film may want to show her make it against all the odds, Donna is more than aware that she won't be able to make it through the "odds" if she has a baby in tow.

So far, not very romantic. Except that Max does kind of like Donna, and Donna finds herself warming to Max, especially when he warms her butter. But of course, Donna doesn't want to hurt the guy anymore than what she's doing to his unborn child. While I don't want to give the ending away to you, I did find the romance refreshing. People have become wise to the all or nothing romances that are peddled by the likes of Disney and other saccharine rom-coms. We know its a fallacy, we know there's no "happy ever after". It seems that nowadays all that people want from a relationship is for someone to not be a bastard to them.

The popular opinion that rom-coms make good date movies doesn't really apply to this film. The abortion storyline may be a little bit of a downer for many people, and the opening dialogue is there to filter out the squeamish from any screening (yeah, this film deals with woman's issues people). The humour is great and delivered brilliantly by Slate, and the romance is tender without becoming yucky. Obvious Child, though low key and maybe risque to some, is refreshingly subdued take on what was becoming an intimidating genre.



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