Saturday, February 14, 2015

Romance Thoughts ‘15—Obvious Child (2014) ***½

R, 84 min.
Director: Gillian Robespierre
Writers: Gillian Robespierre (also short film), Karen Maine (also short film), Elisabeth Holm, Anna Bean (short film)
Starring: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacey, Gaby Hoffman, Gabe Liedman, Richard Kind, Polly Draper, David Cross

Sick of those formula driven romances? “Obvious Child” provides a fresh alternative to those highly predictable rom coms while remaining truly romantic and pretty consitently funny throughout. It’s a little more serious than your average rom com fare because it deals with realistic people and some subject matter that is decidedly unromantic, but it hits home as a positive romance with roots in the reality of relationships that we’re used to dealing with in an actual love affair.

It’s subject is a woman played by comedian Jenny Slate—possibly best known as the SNL cast member who dropped an F-bomb on her very first episode. She didn’t last an entire season. Anyway, she plays a stand-up comedian who just got dumped by a boyfriend she thought was fairly serious. She uses her stand-up act as a place to vent about her personal life, one of the reasons the relationship ended. Her act suffers a bit as she struggles to get over her ex, even stalking him during the day. She meets an guy who is “not her type” in her club one night and the two spend a surprising night together. He’s a genuinely nice guy, but she treats him as she’s treated all her previous bad choices in men. He lets it slide off his back, however.

The relationship has potential until she learns she’s become pregnant through their one night stand. This is a situation she doesn’t know how to deal with herself, let alone convey to him. She blocks him out and eventually he decides she might not be worth the trouble. That’s when she hits her low. Spoiler, however, there is a happy ending.

What works so well here is how Slate behaves—just like a person rather than the star of a movie. There is no hesitancy to show that she has a very ugly side to her. This doesn’t make her as undesireable as most film producers feel such typical human behavior will. It builds the audience’s empathy for her and gives her room for real growth as a character. Jake Lacey is perfectly cast as the perfect man. There’s a sense that he has his flaws as well, but since this isn’t his story they stay in the background. If anything, he’s forgiving to a fault.

If this doesn’t sound like your type of romantic movie, you should go ahead and give it a try anyway. It will surprise you how satisfying a messy rom com can be. This one is messy but still carries the required amount of romance and comedy to make it a complete movie experience. The characters aren’t what you’re used to seeing in the Hollywood rom com of the month, but they might remind you of your best friend or even yourself. Isn’t there more hope in the prospect that someone who is really like you can find romantic bliss than there is that some Hollywood perfection can?

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