TMN Movie Review: "Obvious Child"

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Brooklyn comedian Donna Stern gets dumped, fired and pregnant just in time for the worst/best St. Valentine's Day of her life.
3.5

Rating: R
Length: 83 minutes
Release Date: June 6, 2014
Directed by: Gillian Robespierre
Genre: Comedy / Romance

"Obvious Child" is a quirky dramatic comedy in the same vein as "Juno" with an unapologetically bizarre leading lady. Donna is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn who has achieved a decent amount of success in her personal life. Unfortunately, she recently found out that her closest friend and her long-time boyfriend are having an affair. Donna immediately breaks up with her boyfriend and moves back in with her doting parents to recover from the emotional turmoil. One night, while drowning her sorrows at a local bar, she meets a hopelessly normal man named Max. A one-night stand between the mismatched couple is destined to change Donna's life forever.

Donna is portrayed by Jenny Slate and based on the main character in director Gillian Robespierre's 2009 short film debut. She may be in her mid-twenties, but Donna hasn't grown up much since childhood. With parents always ready to cushion her fall and a free-spirited attitude, Donna lands herself in one bad position after another. When she gets fired from her relatively stable job, things seem to hit rock bottom, and Donna decides to finally listen to her mother's advice to settle down and start making some better decisions. Better decisions often mean difficult ones, as Donna soon finds out when a pregnancy test turns up positive.

At first, Donna assumes that the pregnancy is the result of her relationship with her ex-boyfriend, but she soon figures out otherwise. As the film progresses, she is forced to grow up and make some very adult decisions, including locating the one-night stand who got her pregnant. When she finds Max, she struggles with how she is going to break the news. Having already decided to end the pregnancy, Donna is sure that her decision will put a wedge between her and the very religious Max. Throughout the film, Max ends up surprising her in more ways than she ever could have imagined. As Valentine's Day approaches, Donna realizes that only she is responsible for determining whether this holiday is the best or the worst one yet.

"Obvious Child" is a film about how growing up a little too late is better than never growing up at all, as well as all the surprises that can come along during that journey. Donna begins the film as a self-centered and somewhat entitled woman who uses her quirky charm as a substitute for being honest with people and letting them get to know the real person underneath. When she realizes this important distinction, she is able to be open and honest, not only with herself but with those around her, and people respond far more positively than she imagined. Jenny Slate does a brilliant job of portraying Donna's hilarious and over-the-top antics as well has her gradual emotional transition throughout the movie. This may be her debut role, but she is undeniably destined for indie-movie stardom.

The supporting cast is warm and thoughtful, including Jake Lacy as Max and Richard Kind and Polly Draper as Donna's parents. Each character plays an important role in helping Donna realize her own dreams and gain the confidence she so desperately needs. The relationship between Max and Donna is sweet and unexpectedly charming as he proves to be a genuinely nice guy, especially compared to the phony men Donna has fallen for in the past. Donna begins the film pining over her ex, but through her association with Max and a little self-realization, she comes to realize that she deserves someone who will challenge her to become better, not someone who is only content if she is as miserable as he is.

With a heartfelt story and the ability to navigate some difficult subject matter with poise, it's easy to see why "Obvious Child" became a Sundance Film Festival winner upon its debut. The film is full of eager humor and a lighthearted, whimsical atmosphere that fans of indie films will love. The story is equal parts drama and comedy, managing to balance both without detracting from the storyline at all. The main character is likable but begins the film with plenty of room to grow, making "Obvious Child" one of the most unique modern coming-of-age stories to hit theaters in recent years.

From start to finish, "Obvious Child" is a charming dramatic comedy with twists and turns that are anything but obvious. With a stellar cast and an undeniably charming leading lady, this is the perfect summer film for audiences who want a thoughtful story and plenty of upbeat humor.