The appeal of a romantic comedy isn’t lost on Jenny Slate. “When I have a hangover, it always makes me feel better to watch You’ve Got Mail,” the comedian and actress says. “But I also think that people of my generation are hungry for a change in social norms.”
Enter Obvious Child. The film, out in June, follows Slate as Donna, a newly single New Yorker whose attempt at a rebound culminates in a one night stand and, subsequently, an unexpected pregnancy. In this story, however, it’s not just the guy Donna decides she wants, but an abortion as well.
“Obvious Child was a reaction to a slew of movies that all focused on unplanned pregnancy and all ended in childbirth,” director Gillian Robespierre says. “My best friends and I were pissed off; we were frustrated by the lack of representation of real experiences for real characters.”
And while the film does portray a situation rarely explored in on-screen romances, an emphasis on the “com” part of rom-com keeps things from getting too heavy. A supporting cast including David Cross and Gaby Hoffmann keeps the biting, exceedingly enjoyable humor humming along, but funniest of all is Slate, who’s worked on Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation. She delivers a steady stream of wicked one-liners and appears in almost every frame of the film. It’s her nuanced performance that holds the movie together.
“I think Jenny’s such a smart actress and makes really great choices; she stays true to the authentic tale we were trying to tell,” Robespierre says. “It was a tough shooting schedule, but she was really focused. I admired her wit and her special combination of lewdness and tenderness.”
For her part, Slate says she’s glad to give movie-goers a modern alternative to 90 minutes spent watching Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan figure out whether they’re meant to be.
“When I think of what is classically romantic to me, it’s an individual finding a partner who wants to be with them no matter what,” she says. “I like the idea that we can wipe away some of the old-fashioned elements of a romantic comedy, but keep the classic feeling of what it’s like to fall in love.”
After all, even if the world has changed, our collective desire to watch actors meet-cute remains.
“It’s nice that we can say humans are diverse and complex and the more we open our hearts and minds, the more we can see how today’s pairings are different from old-fashioned ones,” Slate says. “But our need to connect is universal.”