Butler County Times Gazette
  • Costello: 'Obvious Child' makes sad statement of our society

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  • One of the lesser known movies of the summer, "Obvious Child," proved to be just what you'd expect from a low-budget film. There were just a couple of cameras that didn't move much, a lead actress who was in pretty much every scene, and run-of-the-mill side characters with little depth and whose purposes are purely mechanical, little more than a functional aesthetic.
    But what "Obvious Child" did well is something that most under-the-radar movies don't do is evoke an emotional response without forcing it. Granted, it was with a simple, common hot-button issue, and the movie took the easy route by not really bringing in both sides or any feelings of guilt, but it'd be hard for audiences not to lean one way or the other.
    Allow me to explain.
    "Obvious Child" was a film starring Jenny Slate, who plays a young, single, independent woman named Donna. She is a comedian (sorry, comedienne for those who need me to be politically correct) in a low-light hole-in-the-wall bar with a mic stand and beer on tap. Her act isn't even an act so much as it is her just riffing about her pathetic excuse of life (no content was off limits for her, either. At a few points, she delved into female anatomy with great detail). Her problem with her comedy is how she makes light of her problems, how she thinks she has better solutions than what some societal remedy might be; she thinks she's clever when she isn't. Her other job is at a bookstore, but it's getting ready to close down. To top it off, Donna just had the worst break-up of her life, and everybody in the club gets to hear about it. I mean, what guy could resist her, right?
    Basically she's a loser. She lives in a crummy apartment like the low-rent type that she is, has just one real friend and completely struggles living on her own.
    So it can come as a bit of a shock to some people when Donna makes her life worse on her own accord. Donna has a hook-up night with a random guy after having too many drinks after her show. A few weeks later, Donna finds out she's pregnant.
    So what does she do? Well, she does what any girl with a sense of entitlement in today's carefree society would do when put in a predicament like this one: she'd avoid the issue entirely and not take responsibility for her actions.
    She decided to get an abortion.
    WIthout trying to get too preachy - and kudos to director and writer Gillian Robespierre for not getting political or anything like that about it - the remainder of the movie shows how shocked, inadequate, ill-prepared and without regard Donna handles her pregnancy. She doesn't even consider keeping the baby or turning her life around. By happenstance, she runs into the father again and struggles to tell him, and that's apparently her being considerate. She eventually does tell him, and he doesn't seem bothered in the least by her decision. It's like the two of them know they made a mistake, but they know they can erase it and suffer none of the consequences for their action (I'm not saying a baby is a punishment so much as there's a matter of principle at work here). The final scene of the movie shows the two of them sitting on a couch after she has the abortion and immediately going on with their lives like nothing happens.
    Page 2 of 2 - The movie "Juno" starring Ellen Page that released in 2007 was about a high school girl who got pregnant and thought she needed an abortion. That character handles pregnancy more maturely than Donna. All Donna does is run to her mommy. No, it isn't wrong to turn to family for advice at all, but she already has a shaky relationship with her mother, a side story the movie doesn't delve into enough at all. Her mother reveals she once had an abortion in college to try and create a moment of sympathy with her daughter, but there was so little invested in their relationship that it was hard to care about the impact that scenario should've had.
    In "Juno," Ellen Page's title character at least tries to do the right thing after having a half-hearted revelation by realizing that babies are real people, with fingernails and everything. But Donna has no such guilt or shame in her decision.
    Is this really the sad state of acceptance our society has come to? That there is no remorse for abortions anymore?
    The film was done a lot better than most romantic comedies. "Obvious Child" felt real. The characters actually conversed instead of coming up with witty lines that always feel out of place and artificial. There wasn't a cheesy kiss at the end to make the audience think everything was going to be all right.
    The film's authenticity might be its scariest aspect. The lesson is more about the perpetuation of failure directed at a society bent on catering to itself instead of owning up to responsibility. If that was the point of "Obvious Child," it certainly accomplished its goal.
    I sure hope I'm wrong, though.

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