The doctor at Planned Parenthood enters the room and says abruptly, "Hello, Don." Her patient, Donna Stern, hesitates to correct her. But she can't keep it in, and she laughs and says, "It's actually Don-na."
The scene in Obvious Child, which is out today in New York and Los Angeles, shows the recently pregnant, Brooklyn twenty-something Stern to be, in actress Jenny Slate's interpretation, "almost a little old-fashioned in the 'Don't be rude to the doctor' way that you learn from your parents."
"My take,” Slate says, “is she probably didn't want to laugh.”
Because that's exactly the kind of mistake that even the smartest doctor is apt make without a second thought or sincere apology, and it's exactly the reaction that an emotionally intelligent comedian couldn't help but find so implausible that its funny, no matter how weighty the moment. That sort of honest observation is how this comedy that’s (in part) about abortion is making everyone laugh. I haven’t seen a negative review.
More than that, Obvious Child may eventually rank among the most important comedies ever, not because it involves an abortion, but because it departs from the traditionally tragic abortion narrative with a powerful sincerity. The abortion rate in the U.S. is currently the lowest it has been since 1973, but at least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, and one third of them will choose to have an abortion. As writer Amanda Hess notes, while some do report shame or guilt, most feel relief. So it’s important that at the beginning of this story there's a woman on stage who writer/director Gillian Robespierre describes as loud and unafraid, and in the end there's the same one, and in the middle there's one who's loud and afraid, and all of them are funny.