When it comes to joking around, a lot of people would say there are certain topics that should remain taboo. For example, many people still find Holocaust jokes distasteful, despite the fact the tragedy took place more than half a century ago.
But often, we find that in order to cast light on a dark subject, to get past it and even converse about it in a meaningful way, we must laugh at it. When all is said and done, humor may be the only weapon we have that can shatter the barriers that repeatedly deter us from moving forward.
So, “Which hot topic is next on comedy’s rolodex?” you ask. Why, abortion of course!
Yep, abortion. That’s what director Gillian Robespierre’s debut feature Obvious Child spotlights with relentless wit while also showing tender admiration for those who have had to grapple with it.
New York-based comedienne Jenny Slate, best known for the creation of the viral short videos Marcel the Shell with Shoes On and her brief stint on “SNL” and “Parks and Recreation,” stars as Donna, a 20-something comedian working in Brooklyn with little shame and a small disposable income.
She seems to rock the spontaneous Jewess jokester lifestyle…until her boyfriend unexpectedly dumps her for her friend, and the bookstore she’s worked at for the past five years suddenly shuts down. Carrying a broken heart and an empty wallet, Donna falls into a drunken stupor.
She then meets Max (Jake Lacy), a khaki-wearing goy with one of those computer software jobs no one understands. After throwing back enough drinks, and even after Max farts in her face while they pee in the street together, a blissful, yet messy one-night stand ensues. The next morning, Donna sneaks out, thinking she will never see Max again.
But, of course, it’s never that easy.
When Donna realizes she’s pregnant from her rendezvous, she must now traipse through the financial and emotional waters of getting an abortion.
However, Obvious Child is not concerned about whether or not Donna will get an abortion. Rather, this film is about how she copes with the absolute fact that she is getting an abortion. Should she tell Max, who is now going all Romeo on her, that she’s terminating the pregnancy? If so, how should she do it?
In this way, Obvious Child tackles not just one, but all of the many choices a woman must make when it comes to an abortion. It does so with a refreshing combination of just enough romanticism and raunchiness, and the perfect dose of honesty. Obvious Child is a move forward.
And Robespierre couldn’t have chosen a better person than Slate to make it all come to life. In her first huge starring role on the big screen, Slate’s comedic energy is effortlessly crude and adorable at the same time. Unafraid of the camera, she seems to be made for the spotlight, rocking both the vagina gross-out humor in her standup performances as well as the emotionally intimate scenes, especially with the incomparably talented and wacky Gaby Hoffman from Field of Dreams and “Girls” (Hoffman plays Donna’s best friend who had an abortion when she was younger).
It’s in these moments that we see the possibility in laughter. We laugh at what makes us uncomfortable and squeamish, and then suddenly, with a burst of relief, that discomfort is gone.
And so, by pairing its unapologetic romance with a heavy-handed subject addressed by a fanfare of funny faces, Obvious Child is the rom-com that none of us knew we needed.
Obvious Child releases in theaters on Friday, June 6, 2014.