There’s a scene early on in Obvious Child, coming out tomorrow, where Jenny Slate (a.k.a. Marcel the Shell) is standing across the street from her ex-boyfriend’s apartment. It’s winter, she’s coatless, clutching a cup of coffee, bargaining with herself, “If that lady crosses the street, then I have to leave,” etc. The bit spirals until she gets what she’s there for: to catch a brutal glimpse of her ex with his new girlfriend and dog. It’s obviously funny, also a hair too real because, ugh, I would do (or have done) that.
At its briefest IMDB nugget, Obvious Child features Donna, a 28-year-old Brooklyn comedian whose boyfriend brutally dumps her in a bar bathroom. While in the throes of an all-too-identifiable emotional crisis, she has rebound sex that results in an unwanted pregnancy. The film’s been billed as a wry, honest comedy that embraces female gross-out humor à la Bridesmaids — but, more notably, has been called the first entry into the "abortion rom-com" canon.
Obvious Child doesn't waste time hand-wringing. Donna, hovering somewhere between no-collar employment and plain unemployed never falters in her decision to abort. But the days leading up to her Valentine's Day appointment (thanks, universe) create the opportunity to tell a small, resonant, funny story of personal growth.
The blunt take on the topic stems from writer/director Gillian Robespierre's own discontent with the way conversations about abortion have been presented in other movies. Yes, this film talks about abortion. However, in the universe of the film, Donna’s decision is a stepping stone, not a milestone. It portrays a modern woman simply figuring her life out. “It’s a coming-of-age movie, but the age bracket has sort of changed," Robespierre tells the Cut. "It’s not 16 to 20, it’s like, 25 to 30. It’s about finding confidence and losing confidence and finding it again, navigating the murky waters of unemployment, you know. It’s: 'I was told I would have a career! Should I have a career? Why do I feel 10 steps behind everyone else?'"
Turns out, Robespierre has written the perfect Saturn Return movie. For the non-astrologically inclined, Saturn Return refers to the first time the planet completes its cycle through your birth chart and returns to the spot it occupied when you were born. Some people call it your cosmic bat mitzvah, but it can also usher in a major life crisis, depending on how you roll — either way, it’s that tumultuous time from 28 to 30, right before you’re considered a full-blown adult by the universe's standards. Drew Barrymore, Gwen Stefani, and Susan Miller have all openly discussed it at one time or another.
The best of the Saturn Return genre includes Reality Bites, Singles, Bridesmaids, Lola Versus, even Blue Valentine to a certain, soul-crushing extent —all of which feature main characters who fall apart for a brief but intense period before recovering. In my experience, even the getting better is touch-and-go: It's possible to wake up in the morning as a hot mess, and end the day as a superstar — or vice versa. Let's generously call it "evolving."
Lately, I've turned to Saturn Return films, which are more effective than self-help guides, if only because they help normalize the kind of behavior that makes even the sanest of people think they have lost their minds. I like them because they aren't didactic — it’s just one person’s experience told in a relatable way. Which Robespierre made one of her goals with Obvious Child. “I mean, I don’t know anything about lessons because I’m so stupid, I cannot be a teacher,” she jokes, “but I feel like to see on the screen a character that feels a little closer to yourself, who’s not perfect, who’s complex and makes mistakes but also doesn’t pretend to be okay, like, ‘I’m just gonna put my Prada shoes on even though I’m supposed to be somebody who’s struggling’ — that’s not a realistic character or least one that I think is realistic.”
Donna has horrible, irrational, ridiculous, self-sabotaging moments — she spends most of the movie in an evolving state of emotional crisis, but she’s self-aware enough to know it’s not the end of the world. She knows that the resolution of this one situation (unwanted pregnancy, complicated romance) is not going to be the end to her problems. “You’re still gonna feel bad, and you’re still gonna feel meek and passive in your life, and it doesn’t end when you turn 30, either, or when you get the things that you’re ‘supposed’ to get,” says Robespierre. “But I think by the end, she’s at peace, and she knows that in that moment at least, her meekness is lifted.”
Most Viewed Stories
Mary-Kate Olsen Strains Every Muscle in Her Face in an Attempt to Smile
The Fashion Executive Who Doesn’t Wear Underwear on Dates
25 Famous Women on Being Alone
22 Intimate Lost Photos of Marilyn Monroe
Prince George Has No Time for Justin Trudeau’s High Fives
How Angelina Jolie Won the First Big Battle in Her Divorce
It’s Time to Get Over Your White Feelings and Start Taking Action for Black Lives
The Will & Grace Reunion Was Intensely Documented for Social Media
Madame Clairevoyant: Horoscopes for the Week of September 26
All It Took for Anti-Vaxxer to Admit She Was Wrong Was Her Entire Family Getting Sick
From Our Partners
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Love and War FeaturesAva DuVernay on Hollywood Racism, Modern-Day Slavery, and Why She’s Still an Optimist
The director, whose new documentary The 13th chronicles America’s history of racial subjugation, talks to Rebecca Traister about Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the modern criminal-justice system.What No One Tells Couples Trying to Conceive
It helps to be rich.The Hidden Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
A segregated unit of mathematicians born of desperation during World War II became the secret to NASA’s success.Slut-Shaming Squids Are Everywhere
The “Bermuda Square” comic strip is back.Santigold’s New Video Is the Result of a Spontaneous Run-in With Kara Walker
The collaboration that dreams are made of.Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield Spotted Together Again, Love Might Be Real
They could be back together ahh!Teen, Forced to Go on Vacation With Her Family, Calls 911
The logical decision.Report: Hearst Fired Seventeen EIC Michelle Tan During Her Maternity Leave
Tan had been at the magazine for about two years.Good Morning America Host Amy Robach Apologizes for Saying ‘Colored People’ on Air
She quickly apologized.Unknown NFL Player Tries to Get Attention by Asking Aly Raisman Out in Video
That’s one way to do it.
Marissa Cooper is poised for a comeback ... maybe.California Votes to Remove Time Limit on Prosecuting Rape Cases
In light of the Bill Cosby case.Beyoncé’s Behind-the-Scenes Lemonade Photos Belong in a Museum
She had the "Boycott Beyoncé" sign already in formation on set.The Rise of the Male Celebrity Full-Frontal
An ex-publicist explains.Gabby Douglas Will Be a Miss America Judge
The gold-medal gymnast will help choose the 2017 pageant winner.Camille Becerra’s Photo Diary of Rockaway Beach
An ideal trip to add and cross off your summer bucket list.Sorry Nerds, Ian McKellen Won’t Officiate Your Expensive Lord of the Rings–Themed Wedding
Not even for $1.5 million.Miles Teller Is Still Upset About Being Called a Dick
He wants to set the record straight.Why Parents Shouldn’t Talk About Weight With Their Teens
New guidelines seek to banish weight talk.UVA Student Assaulted at Knifepoint During Orientation Weekend
But some students weren't notified until 24 hours later.