Directed by: Gillian Robespierre
Starring: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann, Gabe Liedman, David Cross, Richard Kind
Dumped by her boyfriend, Williamsburg stand up comic Donna (Slate) takes the age old advice that the best way to get over a man is to immediately get under another man, indulging in a drunken one night stand with Max (Lacy), a too good to be true mid-westerner she meets at her comedy club. Several days later, she discovers she is carrying Max's child, but immediately decides to have the foetus terminated, hoping Max won't find out.
For most of its history, American comedy has been largely a sausage fest, though given the dominance of Jewish comics, that may not be the best term to apply. In the past couple of years, however, the best American comedy films have been female driven. Movies like In a World, Hello I Must be Going, Afternoon Delight and Enough Said are forming a new wave of female Jewish comedy. On the surface, Gillian Robespierre's Obvious Child would seem to fit in, but it merely offers a Pavlovian form of Jewish comedy.
The lead character is played by Jenny Slate, a stand up comic herself. Her routines here seem to be largely improvised, and her schtick consists of discussing bodily functions and reminding us of her Jewish heritage. Jewish comedy thrived because it offered a more sophisticated alternative to its mainstream counterpart. Toilet humour is traditionally rare, but the latest generation of Jewish comics seem obsessed with such cheap "comedy." There's nothing traditionally Jewish about Slate's routines here, but she seems to believe that simply mentioning how Jewish she looks every two seconds will illicit a response. Simply pointing out the fact she has a large nose isn't funny in itself; it has to lead somewhere. If Joan Rivers is Pavlov, Slate has merely stolen her bell.
Her character's immature potty mouth makes her intensely unlikable, but the film itself also trades in gutter humour. An entire scene is based around Max stepping in dog shit. This is nothing more than an Adam Sandler movie dressed in hipster indie clothing.
It's also a highly irresponsible, and frankly unbelievable, look at the controversial issue of abortion, playing into the right wing stereotype that women who undergo the procedure are cold-hearted narcissists. Donna never gives her decision a second thought, as though she were simply having an ingrown toenail removed. If the KKK teamed up with Hamas to shoot a movie about a Jewish feminist, the result would likely be a more positive portrayal than the one offered here.
As I write this, in a country where, thanks to the influence of the Catholic church, abortion is still illegal, a news story appeared just yesterday of a rape victim who has essentially been placed under house arrest to stop her leaving Ireland to seek an abortion. For New Yorkers like Donna, abortion may be a trivial issue, but in most parts of the world it's no laughing matter.
By Eric Hillis