Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: New Hilarious Red-Band Trailer For 'The Interview' Starring Seth Rogen And James Franco Watch: New Hilarious Red-Band Trailer For 'The Interview' Starring Seth Rogen And James Franco Fantastic Fest Review: Hitman Thriller 'John Wick' Starring Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe & Adrianne Palicki Fantastic Fest Review: Hitman Thriller 'John Wick' Starring Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe & Adrianne Palicki Watch: First Trailer For Tim Burton's 'Big  Eyes' Starring Amy Adams And Christoph Waltz Watch: First Trailer For Tim Burton's 'Big Eyes' Starring Amy Adams And Christoph Waltz 'Deadpool’ Spin-Off With Ryan Reynolds Is Finally Green Lit, Set For A Winter 2016 Release Date 'Deadpool’ Spin-Off With Ryan Reynolds Is Finally Green Lit, Set For A Winter 2016 Release Date First Look: Cobie Smulders & Guy Pearce In Andrew Bujalski's 'Results' First Look: Cobie Smulders & Guy Pearce In Andrew Bujalski's 'Results' 10 Films We Haven’t Yet Seen That May Be Serious Oscar Contenders 10 Films We Haven’t Yet Seen That May Be Serious Oscar Contenders Watch: Oscar Isaac And Jessica Chastain Are At War In First Trailer For 'A Most Violent Year' Watch: Oscar Isaac And Jessica Chastain Are At War In First Trailer For 'A Most Violent Year' Review: 'The Maze Runner' Starring Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Patricia Clarkson, Will Poulter And More Review: 'The Maze Runner' Starring Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Patricia Clarkson, Will Poulter And More Exclusive: Matthew McConaughey Won’t Be Back For ‘Magic Mike XXL,’ Director Says Sequel Will Be “Very Different” Exclusive: Matthew McConaughey Won’t Be Back For ‘Magic Mike XXL,’ Director Says Sequel Will Be “Very Different” David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 2 ‘The Good Listener’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 2 ‘The Good Listener’ The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

‘Obvious Child’ Director Gillian Robespierre & Jenny Slate Talk Boundaries In Comedy, Naturalism, Improv, More

The Playlist By Charlie Schmidlin | The Playlist June 19, 2014 at 12:15PM

Razor-sharp writing, taut direction, and a stellar central performance by Jenny Slate anchor Gillian Robespierre’s debut directorial feature “Obvious Child.” You’ve likely heard otherwise, its treatment of abortion dominating conversation and even the film’s promotional material, but while Robespierre wanted to buck convention with her narrative aims, she recognizes why the safer romantic comedy choices exist. “I watched those kind of films recently, and they’re still entertaining. We just wanted to tell the other side,” she says about the film, which follows New York stand-up comic Donna (Slate) as she discovers she’s pregnant after a drunken one-night-stand.
0
Obvious Child, With Jenny Slate, Gabe Liedman and Gillian Robespierre.

Razor-sharp writing, taut direction, and a stellar central performance by Jenny Slate anchor Gillian Robespierre’s debut directorial feature “Obvious Child.” With its treatment of abortion dominating conversation and even the film’s promotional material, Robespierre notes she wanted to buck convention with her narrative aims, though she recognizes why the safer romantic comedy choices exist. “I watched those kind of films recently, and they’re still entertaining. We just wanted to tell the other side,” she says about the film, which follows New York stand-up comic Donna (Slate) as she discovers she’s pregnant after a drunken one-night-stand.

“We wanted to tell the story through the lens of an actual woman who is strong and funny and empowered and complex -- just normal,” she explains when we sat down with both her and Slate separately in Los Angeles. “Ultimately we didn't make a movie about legislation, we just made a movie about emotions and going through a slew of them, whether it's being dumped or being afraid to talk to your overbearing mom. That's where people could connect emotionally.”

Robespierre continues, “[The film] is also just a rebuttal to our culture. Everyone has a right to tell an interesting story, but it was more like, ‘What is wrong with our culture that keeps on silencing this voice where 1 in 3 women will have had an abortion in their lifetime and yet the stigma surrounding it is full of shame and judgment and fear and anxiety?’ ”

Based on a successful 2009 short of the same name written by Robespierre, Karen Maine, and Anna Bean, “Obvious Child” used its time wisely in considering that question on its the trip toward feature-length (our Sundance review here). Robespierre found valuable input and crew from a number of places: Film Fatales, a group of NYC female filmmakers that Robespierre calls “a really safe, funny, and fucking awesome place to go”; the San Francisco Film Society, who granted an essential day of workshopping, hikes, and table reads; and finally Kickstarter, where the team gathered an extra push to complete post-production.

Obvious Child
A24 "Obvious Child"

Robespierre again partnered with Maine for the script alongside writer/producer Elisabeth Holm; together, they fleshed out the supporting cast, including Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann, Richard Kind, Polly Draper, and Slate’s real-life best friend Gabe Liedman, a dynamic that is mirrored in the film.

Armed with Slate’s voice and mannerisms firmly in mind, the character of Donna hits a variety of shades and stages thanks to the smart script and Slate’s dramatic talents. Already proven a varied and deeply funny presence in everything from “Parks and Recreation” to her “Twin Peaks”-esque web seriesCatherine” (“What a story would be like if everything was completely neutral”), Slate keeps the film’s balance of naturalism and broader moments in check. Despite both sharing surface similarities though, Slate considers Donna as a world away from herself as a person.

“I'm kind of glad that people think we're one and the same, because it means I did a believable job,” Slate says. “But I'm older than Donna and it's just important for me to have my shit together. I’m much more of a driven person. Donna’s not trying to be a movie actress. She's just a comedian. Maybe she'll get a book deal or have a podcast, but that's what she wants. She's satisfied living a rather small and contained life. She needs a kick in the ass and I don't. I'm just different than that. I'm more aware of boundaries, too.”

“Boundaries” may seem a ill-fitting word if you’ve heard a word of Slate’s stand-up material, portions of which are faithfully transferred over to the film—the opening scene alone features Donna describing her panties at day’s end in vivid detail. However, she remains acutely aware of the line where performance blurs over into too-personal territory.

“On-stage I have no problem talking about being horny or my body, but I would never make the mistake of embarrassing my husband onstage,” she says, referring to an early scene in the film where Donna lays her emotional baggage out for all to see. “It would never, ever happen. I won't do standup stoned; I'd also never get onstage totally wasted and fuck up. I might get onstage totally wasted and perform, but only if it'll be okay. I'm really aware of those nuanced limits.”

This article is related to: Obvious Child, Gillian Robespierre , Jenny Slate, Feature, Interview, Interviews, Interviews


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates