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Phoenix Film Festival Review: Gillian Robespierre's Obvious Child

Jenny Slate stars in Obvious Child.
Jenny Slate stars in Obvious Child.
A24 Films

Gillian Robespierre's Obvious Child isn't your typical romantic comedy.

Jenny Slate stars as Donna Stern, a charmingly foul-mouthed Williamsburg stand-up, whose cheating boyfriend (Paul Briganti) dumps her for another woman.

She goes through the typical stages of relationship loss. She gets drunk, leaves him many inebriated messages, finds comfort in her roommate Nellie (Gaby Hoffmann), and does some light stalking of her ex and his new girlfriend, who had been a close friend of Donna's. Adding insult to injury, she also loses her job at an independent bookstore.

But then, something great happens.

She stops chasing him.

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Unlike rom-coms in which leading ladies remain hung up on their unworthy exes (see: Meg Ryan in French Kiss), Obvious Child allows Donna to move on quickly by presenting her with a meet-cute with the adorably straitlaced Max (Jake Lacy), a businessman who is so not her type.

"Whoa. You're really laser-ing into me with your pee-pee missiles there," she laughs, as he checks her out while waiting for drinks at the club where she performed (and bombed) earlier in the evening. Max, confused but entertained, asks if pee-pee missiles are eyes.

"I'm not a doctor," she replies.

It's this brand of bonkers back-and-forth dialogue that draws in Slate fans who recognize her from her work on Kroll Show, Saturday Night Live, and Parks and Recreation.

The two hang out, hook up (to the tune of Paul Simon's "Obvious Child"), and -- here it comes -- Donna ends up with a very unplanned pregnancy.

 

Phoenix Film Festival Review: Gillian Robespierre's Obvious Child
A24 Films

Slate so excels at being zany and quick-witted that it's no surprise she brings many laugh-out-loud moments to Obvious Child. What is surprising is her take on a character who's more than funny. Slate makes Donna a complete and complicated person, balancing her fart and vagina jokes with touching dramatic turns, particularly when interacting with her divorced parents, played by Richard Kind and Polly Draper.

Jobless, single, and not particularly ready for adulthood, let alone motherhood, Donna decides to have an abortion and talk about it in her act.

It's a romantic comedy, but it's not pandering to women or going out of its way to be edgy or mushy. It's a straightforward story about love.

The script, penned by Robespierre, is strong. The actors gel. And with a keen -- but not cynical -- sense of Millennial-era relationships and brutal, hilarious honesty, it's a film that's gross, sweet, and true to life.

And that makes it one of the most genuine takes on the rom-com genre we've ever seen.

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