Written and directed by Gillian Robespierre from a story by Robespierre, Karen Maine, and Elisabeth Holm that is based on a short film by Robespierre, Maine, and Anna Bean, Obvious Child is the story of a stand-up comedian who deals with a one-night stand that lead to an unexpected pregnancy as she decides to have an abortion. The film is the story of a woman who deals with this unexpected event as well as her own issues where she believes an abortion would help matters for something she’s not ready for. Starring Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann, Richard Kind, Polly Draper, Gabe Liedman, and David Cross. Obvious Child is a witty and somber film from Gillian Robespierre.
The film follows a stand-up comedian who just got dumped as she meets a man during a show leading to a one-night stand that resulted in her pregnancy and her eventual decision to have an abortion. It is a film that plays into a young woman who doesn’t have a lot of things in her life figured out as she just got dumped where she does her stand-up revealing that her boyfriend has been sleeping with her friend and is leaving her for her friend. Gillian Robespierre’s screenplay is largely straightforward in its narrative as it follows Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) who does her performance where she reveals she got dumped and a friend of hers has taken her boyfriend. While lamenting over her break-up and other misfortunes as well as being unable to pay her rent, she drinks where she meets a guy named Max (Jake Lacy) where they have a one-night stand that eventually lead to her pregnancy. With all of the things in her life, Donna decides to have an abortion but she also learns that Max is a former student of her mother as it only complicates things.
Robespierre’s direction is largely straightforward as it is shot on location in New York City with much of it in and around Brooklyn and parts of Manhattan. While there are some wide shots in some of Robespierre compositions, much of the film is intimate with its usage of medium shots and close-ups as it play into Donna’s interaction with other characters including her best friend/roommate Nellie (Gaby Hoffmann) and another comedian in Joey (Gabe Liedman). Robespierre does move the camera to gather some of the conversations in the streets while much of it has her just aiming for something simple as it play into Donna’s own anxiety in whether to tell Max or not that she’s carrying his child and planning to abort it. Robespierre also knows where to put the actors in a shot as well as showcasing how they perform and the reaction of the audiences. Robespierre also play into the drama in its third act it as it relates to Max and why he is different from the men that Donna had met in her life as he is also trying to find himself. Overall, Robespierre crafts an engaging and touching film about a woman dealing with a one-night stand and her decision to have an abortion.
Cinematographer Chris Teague does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as its emphasis on low-key and autumn/winter-like colors as well as yellowish lights for some of the interior/exterior scenes at night. Editors Casey Brooks and Jacob Craycroft do terrific work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with a few rhythmic cuts to play into the humor. Production designer Sara K. White, with set decorator Ramsey Scott and art director Bridget Rafferty, does fantastic work with the set design from the book store that Donna and Nellie work at where they live above as well as the interiors of the comedy club. Costume designer Evren Catlin does nice work with the costumes as it is largely casual in the winter clothing the characters wear including a few stylish blouses that Donna wears.
The sound work of Mark Corbin is superb for its low-key yet naturalistic approach to sound in how comedy clubs sound as well as sparse moments in the film. The film’s music by Chris Bordeaux is wonderful for its low-key indie-folk score that largely features bits of folk guitars and keyboards to play into some of its light-drama while its music soundtrack features some indie, folk, and classical music with contributions from Paul Simon, Ludwig Van Beethoven, and Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
The casting by Suzanne Crowley and Jessica Kelly is amazing as it feature some notable small roles from Stephen Singer as the bookstore owner Gene, Cindy Cheung as a physician in Dr. Bernard who gives Donna advice about her pregnancy, Paul Briganti as Donna’s ex-boyfriend Ryan, Gabe Liedman as Donna and Nellie’s friend Joey who is a gay comedian, and David Cross as a comedian in Sam who is trying to flirt with Donna. Richard Kind and Polly Draper are fantastic in their respective roles as Donna’s separated parents in Jacob and Nancy Stern who both provide different advice to Donna about her life with the former being more comical and the latter being more serious. Gaby Hoffmann is excellent as Donna’s friend/roommate Nellie who is one of the few to learn about the pregnancy as well as Donna’s decision to get pregnant while observing Max.
Jake Lacy is brilliant as Max as a former student of Nancy who meets Donna at a club as it lead to a one-night stand where Lacy brings a lot of wit but also someone who is just as uncertain about his own future as a person. Finally, there’s Jenny Slate in an incredible performance as Donna Stern as a stand-up comedian who is dealing with a lot in her life such as the need to find a new place to live, rent money, and a relationship that just ended only for things to worsen by a one-night stand that lead to her pregnancy and eventual abortion. Slate brings not just a lot of low-key wit to her performance but also some light-drama that is filled with anxiety and uncertainty that has an air of realism into someone who is dealing with a major event in her life.
Obvious Child is a phenomenal film from Gillian Robespierre that features a great leading performance from Jenny Slate. Along with its ensemble cast, exploration on unexpected pregnancy and abortion, and its simplistic presentation. It is a film that is a study of a woman who is still trying to find herself following a break-up and a one-night stand as well as dealing with the stigma of abortion. In the end, Obvious Child is a phenomenal film from Gillian Robespierre.
Gillian Robespierre Films: (Landline) – (The Pisces)
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