8 obvious

The feature debut from writer-director Gillian Robespierre was much more than a single word. Quickly reduced by most of the entertainment press to a work with the primary significance of dealing with the topic of abortion more frankly, more fearlessly, and frankly more honestly than most other films that have cause to incorporate acknowledgement of the fully legal and not especially uncommon medical procedure, Obvious Child was a deeply insightful and beautifully funny creation. As Donna Stern, a low-level stand-up comic and struggling young woman approaching the age when unsettled directionless is no longer charming to herself or others, Jenny Slate works expressive wonders. She finds ways to make her self-sabotaging character consistently sympathetic, sparking off the battered byways of a life with an endearing expressiveness. Donna’s ability to smart-aleck her way past caring about her own problems is fragile branch getting buffeted by ever strengthening winds. Robespierre betrays no evident interest in making the film some scruffily uplifting journey, nor a cynical exercise in comic bleakness. Obvious Child is both plainer and wiser than that. It understands that even difficult decisions can be reached with ease and assurance. Similarly, it shows how prickly judgment and warm-hearted sympathy can emanate from the same person, with both styles of interaction as truthful expression of the individual’s inner being. Basically, the film commits to and prospers from a lovely, intimate understanding of the inherent complexity of modern life. Taking an approach like that might be, well, obvious, but developing it into a witty, winning, wickedly smart movie isn’t easy. Robespierre just makes it look that way.

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