Think you can’t make abortion funny? One director says you can.


Comedians/actress Jenny Slate, filmmaker Gillian Robespierre, and SXSW Film Festival Director Janet Pierson takes part in a Q&A following the “Obvious Child” Premiere during the 2014 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at the Topfer Theatre at ZACH on March 9, 2014 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW)

When it’s exhausted every possible trope in existence, sometimes a genre’s got to dig a bit deeper.

A romantic comedy centered around an abortion sounds, well, macabre, but this may be just the wake-up rom-coms need.

Enter “Obvious Child,” which was screened Sunday as part of SXSW’s Festival Favorites lineup.

“Obvious Child,” directed by Gillian Robespierre, stars “Saturday Night Live” alum Jenny Slate as the Donna, the protagonist and procurer of said abortion.

There were a bunch of movies in 2007 that dealt with young women and pregnancy – “Juno,” “Waitress,” “Knocked Up” – which all featured neat happy endings, with the female protagonist choosing to have the baby, even when the father was an absolute lout. Well, Michael Cera’s character wasn’t a lout, but he was, as Juno would say, “ill-equipped” to raise a child.

“Knocked Up” truly stretched the confines of plausibility, with Katherine Heigl’s character electing to remain forever tied to the stoner poster boy for Peter Pan syndrome played by Seth Rogen after a drunken hookup.

On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got the bleakly honest “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.”

“Obvious Child, ” also one of the most talked-about films at Sundance, managed to find a comfortable spot in that chasm, and critics have praised it for its frankness about a procedure that one third of American women will experience in their lifetimes. This is another thing that makes “Obvious Choice” vastly different from “Knocked Up,” which gave abortion the Voldemort treatment: the closest any of the characters came to mentioning it was “it rhymes with shmashmortion.”

Said critic Beth Hanna:

Robespierre’s crisp direction and Slate’s infectious personality would be enough to carry such a story even if those were its only aspirations, but they opt for a different route. Donna realizes that – duh – having a baby at this point in her life would be fairly disastrous: She’s low on income, low on interest in child-rearing, and low on the emotional maturity needed to do so. Like many twentysomethings of the twenty-first century, Donna is the obvious child of the title. So, with little ado (but with some drawn-out difficulty telling Max), she goes for the abortion.

“Obvious Child” hits theaters June 6.

Soraya Nadia McDonald covers arts, entertainment and culture for the Washington Post with a focus on issues surrounding race, gender and sexuality.

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