Your Summer Abortion Rom-Com

In a glowing review of Obvious Child, Teo Bugbee compares the film’s frank approach to abortion with Hollywood’s enduring skittishness about the subject, calling it “the movie that Hollywood should have been making 40 years ago”:

Obvious Child is not “the abortion movie” that its own marketing and reception might lead you to anticipate. [Writer-director Gillian] Robespierre and star Jenny Slate have made a movie about a woman, not an abortion. There are no impassioned speeches about women’s rights, no bad guys protesting outside the clinic, and no after-the-fact breakdowns. Donna’s life does not revolve around her choice, and neither does the movie. It is at every turn more relaxed, more confident, and more rewarding than what we as an audience have been conditioned to expect from this kind of movie—the kind with a capital-I “Issue” at its heart. Maybe the most political thing about Obvious Child is that it makes abortion feel as if it isn’t an issue at all. …

Hollywood likes to think of itself as a liberal stronghold, pushing America forward one very important Oscar picture at a time. But for the last thirty years Hollywood has remained conspicuously silent as women’s rights have been rolled back bill by bill, Supreme Court ruling by Supreme Court ruling. The last major release to feature an abortion was Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls in 2010—since that film’s release, over 3 million legal abortions have been performed in the United States alone.

Discussing the film with Robespierre, Sarah Erdreich also highlights the film’s honest approach:

Obvious Child is also refreshing in that — unlike other films or television shows that depict abortion — it goes into detail about how much an abortion, even a first-trimester one like Donna’s, will cost. And according to Robespierre, including that information was deliberate. “We wanted to show an honest portrayal of what it’s like in a health center. And the cost was really important, because it was a real moment for Donna’s character to feel something … about where she was at that moment, feeling kind of alone and lost and scared. Donna is complex and she’s trying to figure out so many things all at once. The financial part of the decision is what sort of hit her full on.”

Esther Breger admires the way it avoids being an “issue movie” and instead offers a fresh spin on romantic comedy:

The story isn’t one we’ve seen onscreen before, but it’s fitted into the structure of a surprisingly conventional rom-com, from initial meet-cute to final romantic gesture. The traditional romantic comedy is dead, you may have heard, killed by the international market and Katherine Heigl andmost of allthe changing nature of modern romance. …

But if the rituals of courtship have become more stable, they’ve grown even more bewildering, as anyone who has read The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. can attest. (That novel begins with an awkward encounter with a former flame who Nathaniel ignored after accompanying to Planned Parenthood.) Obvious Child is covering the same territory, mining the ambiguities of modern dating for plausible obstacles to love. What’s the etiquette when you’re on a second date with the guy whose abortion you’re getting? (What’s the grammatically correct way to even construct that sentence?) What are the expectations for him? This isn’t exactly the stuff of You’ve Got Mail, even if it, amazingly, shares that movie’s sweet spirit. There’s a frankness here that put Knocked Up‘s gross-out humor to shame.