I could describe this one-of-a-kind whatzit as an abortion movie with jokes. I wouldn’t be wrong. But I wouldn’t be getting at what makes Obvious Child something uniquely special. That would be Jenny Slate, a former SNL cast member who was dead on the show after she slipped and said “fuckin” live on camera. Slate plays Donna Stern, a twentyish bookstore clerk (remember those?) who moonlights as a standup comic. Donna uses her life, including her old lovers and older underwear, as material for her act. Her boyfriend (Paul Briganti), a cheater who doesn’t like his sexual habits being fodder for comedy, dumps her. To the horror of her roommate Nellie (Gaby Hoffmann, wonderful), Donna indulges in a “a little light stalking.” And then, here’s where the plot pivots, Donna buries her self-pity in a broken-condom one-nighter with a stranger, Max (Jake Lacy), a dude so square he wears topsiders. But Max is also, well, nice, so nice that Donna doesn’t tell him at first when she tests positive on her pregnancy test.
If you’re thinking you know exactly where this is heading, think again. Filmmaker Gillian Robespierre, in her feature debut, has a knack for exploding clichés and rebuilding them as truths. Donna never doubts the wisdom of having an abortion. And Max, played by Lacy with laidback charm and sneaky wit, never doubts her right to make her own decisions. By Hollywood standards, these acts count as revolutionary. Obvious Child is a romcom with a sting in its tail. And Slate is a dynamo, nailing every laugh while showing a true actor’s gift for nuance. There’s a moment when Max, sensing Donna’s pain, asks if she wants to watch a movie. Her answer is, “always.” How do you not love that or this movie?