On Saturday I went with my boyfriend and his teenage son to see Obvious Child, (written and directed by Gillian Robespierre and staring Jenny Slate). The movie is billed as an abortion romantic comedy.
I think a better descriptor is a pretty-close-to-real-life romantic comedy. In fact, Ms. Slate’s performance and many of the scenes were so real that at times I felt as if I were watching a reality TV-like event (that is if reality TV were in any way like real life). I truly mean this in the best of ways. For me the characters, the situations, and the dialogue all rang true. My boyfriend and his son, who are not OB/GYNs or women and so have a far less intimate knowledge of the medicine and this aspect of the private lives of women, also felt it was all very convincing (except one part, and I’ll get to that in a bit).
Since romantic comedies all turn out in a very specific way I don’t consider what follows as a spoiler of any kind, but if you don’t want to know much about the movie going in then come back and read the rest after you’ve seen it.
Otherwise…what did I like specifically?
- The vaginal discharge! I am sure that’s never been in a movie review of any kind, but not only did I laugh out loud at the cream cheese description in the opening monologue, but a movie that shows black underwear with a medically accurately depiction of a days’ worth of vaginal discharge is all kinds of awesome.
- The condom scene. A great example of why condoms have such a high failure rate compared to other methods of birth control. The flash backs of the night in question show playing with it before hand, putting it on inside out first, and opening the package with teeth (all no-nos in case you didn’t know). As we had a robust after film discussion, my boyfriend’s teenager now knows never, ever to open a condom with his teeth. I hope this spurs lots of other like-minded discussions.
- Many women (about 50% actually) who seek an abortion used birth control. Sometimes appropriately and sometimes inappropriately. The point is for many women an unplanned pregnancy is a swiss cheese effect, several events that happen to line up so all the weak points line up (too much alcohol lowering inhibitions, a highly user intense method of contraception when inhibitions are low and skill is lower, and mid cycle). Donna clearly though they’d used a condom until she really thought about it.
- That all kinds of women have abortion. One of the women in the recovery room had an engagement ring, several had no rings. The make-up and mannerisms suggested a variety of social circumstances.
- That many women have had abortions. Donna finds out that her close friend had one and even her mother. Perhaps a typical reviewer might find this a little “too coincidental,” except of course abortion is so common that the idea that one’s mother and close friend could have had one and not spoken about it very real.
- That many women had potentially or definitely unsafe abortions. Donna’s mother recounts her kitchen table abortion and that rings true, although I have to say it sounds safer than the stories I’ve heard. Then again, her mother is only recounting what she remembered and she was lucky enough to A) have her own mother with her and B) get some kind of sedative.
- That women date douche bags and then mourn them when they finally break up/get dumped. Sad, but true.
- That not all men are douche bags, but that women can be so scarred and scared from dating douche bags that they just don’t know how to react when one is actually kind and sweet and, well, awesome. The scene where Max warms the butter almost broke my heart. I have been in the position of having absolutely no idea of how to act/react when a man shows me this kindness. Even after almost three years of dating my boyfriend will do something small and sweet like that and I’ll be taken aback by it and he will be even more taken aback that I waited 47 years for it. Ladies, if he won’t warm your butter (see the trailer), he isn’t worth it.
- A decision doesn’t have to be agonizing to be important. I liked that Donna didn’t wrestle with the choice, but yet she respected the weight of it. The movie clearly shows that abortion is a big decision and for many women it is the right one.
The only thing that didn’t ring true for me was the two-week wait after being seen at Planned Parenthood before she could get an abortion. Donna could have had a medical abortion without a wait (although in some states she could have faced a 24 hour waiting period due to legal requirements), regardless I think the two-week waiting period was well used dramatically. After all, not everything in movies has to be 100% accurate. I mean, would Transformers really ride Dinobots to save humanity?
My boyfriend didn’t think the end was believable, that the guy would show up with flowers and accompany Donna to the clinic. First of all, I pointed out that is something he would himself have done. He paused and agreed. Then I added that this is the crux of the romantic comedy genre. Just as Mr. Darcy persists even when rebuffed by Elizabeth (Pride and Prejudice being the epitome of rom-coms), so does Max when he is rebuffed by Donna. Perhaps romantic comedies are in many ways as unlikely as disaster movies, but hey, it’s the formula.
Go see Obvious Child. It’s great. It’s refreshing. It’s more real and honest than most romantic comedies. And Jenny Slate can sure act.