What happens when Brooklyn comedian Donna Stern gets dumped, fired and pregnant just in time for the worst/best Valentine's Day of her life.
For those who bemoan the lack of female writers and directors working in Hollywood, writer/director Gillian Robespierre's 'Obvious Child', based on her short film of the same name, should be championed and supported. It offers a smart, realistic story about the struggles of a modern-day young woman, which seem typical, yet are presented in a compelling way because of the quality of the writing and acting.
Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) is a nearly 30-year-old, struggling stand-up comic whose boyfriend dumps her at the start of the movie because he is seeing her friend. Her day job is working at a bookstore, which is being forced out of business by the landlord. Donna uses the stage to work through her issues, like her break-up, the way many in her age group and younger use social media to vent their problems and be heard. Unfortunately, the material isn't funny, obviously coming off the top of her drunken head rather than being a polished routine. Slater does a great job making it awkward for both audiences watching.
At the club, she meets Max (Jake Lacy), a young businessman who is at the club entertaining clients. He is very different from the kind of guy she has as a friend let alone dates, but as the alcohol continues, her barriers come down. They sneak a pee outside together and share a moment that brings them closer together. It is one of the film's more memorable scenes because it is unexpected and yet believable. Back at his place, they dance to Paul Simon's "Obvious Child," which Robespierre shows, making a clever choice over the obvious sex scene that occurs between them.
A few weeks after the one-night stand, she discovers she is pregnant and decides on an abortion. The film is surprisingly straightforward in this matter considering the opportunity for the drama that could be attached. And that's not to say it's an easy choice for Donna or that there's no conflict in coming to a decision. We get to see anxiety about sharing the news with her mother, and whether she is going to say anything to Max, what his reaction is going to be, and what that mean for them going forward.
Jenny Slate, who has mainly seen is supporting roles proves her abilities as a lead. She's always demonstrated great comedic skill in different roles, but here reveals a capacity to handle drama. Jake Lacy exudes sincerity in an effortless way as nice guy Max. Gaby Hoffmann is Nellie, Donna's roommate and best friend, and provides the strength Donna needs during weak moments. David Cross is perfect as sleazy comic pal of Donna's who is visiting from Los Angeles.
Although 'Obvious Child' has frequently described as a romantic comedy, that designation seems slightly misleading. The film is a coming-of-age story about Donna rather than a story about a couple forming. Even though Max is a major factor in moving the plot along, his character is never seen without her. He's more a supporting character rather than a co-lead. None of which diminishes how compelling 'Obvious Child' is.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lions Gate is releasing 'Obvious Child' on a 25GB Region A Blu-ray disc housed in standard blue keepcase and accompanied by a slipcover. There are trailers for Trailers for 'Laggies', 'Life After Beth', 'The Spectacular Now', 'The Bling Ring', 'Spring Breakers', and the Epix channel before the main menu.
The video for 'Obvious Child' has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC that is displayed at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The image is clean and free of defects and artifacts.
The colors appear in solid hues. A collection of flowers in front of a shop is one example of an item popping within a frame. White are accurate. Blacks levels are solid and contribute to a satisfying contrast and good shadow delineation. The latter of which helps during club scenes with low, colored light.
Details are strong. Textures in clothing and building are well defined. A limited depth of field results in intentional soft focus of objects in the background of some scenes, but foreground objects appear with sharp clarity.
The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English. Dialogue is always clear and never diminished by the effects or music, which is important for a film like this where there is so much talking. The surrounds offer ambiance, such as the audience members milling about in their seats during the club scenes, and fill with music, especially during Paul Simon's "Obvious Child." The subwoofer augments the song's percussion and later it rattles to the point of distortion as the seconds slowly tick by in a thunderous manner while Donna waits for pregnancy test. The dynamic range was expansive though the loud moments are few. Imaging was noticeable.
'Obvious Child' will surely be on my year-end list of films that deserved to be remembered from 2014 because of its smart script and engaging performances. Both Gillian Robespierre and Jenny Slate are definitely talents that deserved to be watched to see what comes next from them.
The Blu-ray delivers a satisfying HD presentation and enough extras that tell the story of the film's creation. Recommended.