Welcome to our moon-synced movie review show, hosted by Saira Barbaric and NEVE. This duo of South Seattle creatives make multidisciplinary work together and individually. For this show, they’re ecstatic to join their love of astrology, ritual, and pop culture.
Stream this month’s podcast at the New Moon Movie Review official podcast website.
The short and sweet Obvious Child, directed by Gillian Robespierre and starring Jenny Slate, was released in 2014. Still, it gets its name from the 1990’s Paul Simon and Olodum (Black Brazilian drumming and performance collective/political movement, whose name means “God of Gods”) song “The Obvious Child.” “The Obvious Child” was Paul Simon’s reflection on mortality and aging, in which the singer is not only grown but has a child who’s grown. Simon asks, “Why deny the obvious child?” Given that the film Obvious Child is about an unplanned pregnancy in the life of a 20-something comedian, you might think the obvious child is the one that might have been. Still, I like to think that the obvious child is the one in the heart of Slate’s hilarious Donna. Paul Simon and Olodum’s song features in the film as well. Its freckled, speckled, peppered, stacked, happily gnashing drums accompany the scene in which Donna and her one-night stand Max (Jake Lacy) hook up for the first time and inadvertently get pregnant. It’s a very charming scene, with a lot of dancing, jumping, and playing around. Very little obvious sexy time, which I found endearing and wholesome. They were genuinely enjoying themselves, and the movie wanted us to know this. The downside to this scene and song choice is that Max owns both khakis and bongos. You do the math.
Obvious Child’s plot is almost as simple as its premise. Donna is a beautiful, quirky, Jewish, semi-bratty struggling comedian with two professional/brilliant, if overbearing and difficult to directly please, parents and two helpful, loyal, and only ever gently condescending best friends (including one played by my love, Gaby Hoffmann). She performs nearly nightly but at the very least weekly at a local bar and comedy club in her Brooklyn neighborhood. At some point, she gets pregnant and decides to have an abortion. These are not even spoilers. Half of what happens is what doesn’t happen. Donna is seemingly not suffering over the choice to have an abortion, nor is she suffering through an unwanted/unplanned pregnancy. No one tries to talk her out of her right to choose. In fact, the thing that Donna is to be critiqued or congratulated for by an audience, a therapist, or the characters actually in the story is her comedy. When I first saw it as a 24-year-old, I was all in on her sense of humor; now, as a 32-year-old, I still think she’s hilarious, but I also notice the way her style matures throughout the arc of the movie. There are moments, especially in the beginning, when her navel gazing or bitter digs are in weird taste, and I wince at the times I quoted them in my early mid-20s. There is something for many to enjoy in this film, but I admit it didn’t provide me with the excitement that I now want in plotlines and themes, slow and sparse or thick as the going might be.
Obvious Child came out smack in the middle of the hilarious hipster white woke feminist indie satire of the early 2000s and 2010s on the struggle during coming-of-age zeitgeist. There are many joints I love and many joints I hate from this era. I love Juno and Knocked Up, starring Elliot Page and Katherine Heigl, respectively. Still, I admit it feels like something from a ghostly omission to an intentional erasure that abortion as a right is barely considered in either film. What I love especially about Obvious Child’s brand of hipster feminist comedy is that by this point we have entered an era in which women and femmes can hope to be as gross as we really are. The show Broad City, created by and starring Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer is a shining example of this. Bodily humor that isn’t fatphobic! Talking about vaginas in loving and realistic ways! Laughing at oneself for being a trash-eating raccoon! The broads don’t deal personally with pregnancy in the show, but they do volunteer supporting people accessing abortions at a clinic, protecting them from the pro-life protesters there, and they even creatively get one of the protesters there to change his tune! It feels vital and life-affirming to see people who are not cis men “being allowed” to be whole people in the open more often. Now let’s get there for not-men of color too, y’all!
Obvious Child is funny, a little absurd, and very sweet, especially if you are watching with another person (even over text message exchanges — sync it up! 321-play!) because it demands focus and interaction to be enjoyed. Obvious Child isn’t the best choice for passively watching. There’s a lot of subtleties and slower moments to pay attention to. There is a great black-and-white, old Hollywood scene that’s done in a funny, attractive, and not cheesy way. As a person who is both obviously grown and growing and an obvious child, I appreciated this film’s candor and sweetness, which holds up over the years. It works well with this New Moon in Cancer, the River Moon. Listen to our podcast to hear more about the moon, as well as an in-depth (and definitely R-rated for body talk, A+ for hilarity) conversation between Saira and me about our feelings for the film.
NEVE (they/(s)he) is a multigender, multiracial, multiply Disabled, multidimensional, multidisciplinary terpsichorean artist of the stage, street, field, stream, and screen. They are an Indigenous African living in Duwamish and Coast Salish lands and traveling wherever they have access and an invitation. (S)He is a 2020 Pina Bausch Fellow and a 2022 Arc Artist Fellow. Visit them online at nevebebad.com and beyond.
📸 Featured Image: This month’s New Moon Movie Review explores “Obvious Child,” a 2014 movie where a character gets an abortion, an all-too-relevant theme today. Photo by Duané Viljoen from Pexels.com.
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