Based on a short film written by Anna Bean, Karen Maine and Gillian Robespierre, Robespierre writes and directs this feature film starring Jenny Slate (Parks & Recreation), Jake Lacy (The Office) and Gaby Hoffmann (Uncle Buck). A comedy-cum-drama about life, love, heartbreak and hardship, I was curious about the film based on its dealing with a subject seldom seen in cinema, wondering how it would be dealt with, and how the laughs would be possible in the midst of a subject considered controversial by many.
Donna Stern (Slate) is a stand-up comedienne who longs to get further in that realm of her life, but is stuck doing sets at a ragged bar in Brooklyn. She tells jokes in a personal manner, showing herself and her flaws and quirks on stage while gaining approving applause from the audience. When her boyfriend, Ryan (Paul Briganti), breaks up with her and admits that he has been seeing her friend behind her back, Donna goes into break-up breakdown mode, finding it hard to move past her broken heart. With the help of her friend, Nellie (Hoffmann), she tries to move past it, and after a disastrous set in which she speaks about her cheating ex, she meets Max (Lacy), and drinks away her sorrows before going home with him and the two sleeping together. Max is a kind-hearted and intelligent guy, but Donna, waking up after the night they slept together, panics and leaves while he is sleeping, avoiding a relationship from forming. Donna’s life takes further difficult turns when her place of work, a bookstore, announces that it’s being forced to close, but the difficulties get even bigger when she discovers that her breasts are sore, and soon finds out that she is pregnant. She makes an immediate decision to have an abortion, with her life being in a very problematic and chaotic place, but doesn’t know how to tell her parents or Max, the man who is the second 50% of the responsibility for the situation. Donna must make decisions about her life and how she will move past the harsh and numerous problems she is facing, all the while Max is attempting to spend time with her, despite her strange behaviour when they are together.
I am familiar with Slate from her small role in Parks & Recreation, and Lacy from his role as Pete in the US version of The Office, and I thought both of them were really good here, showing a different side to them as performers. Their chemistry works, and the dialogue between the two, realistic, jokey and familiar, is written in a way that is easy to connect with. There are likely going to be people who see the cover of this film and immediately think “rom-com”, but don’t be fooled, because while this film does deal with romance, and does have comedy, it is not your typical romantic comedy film. Far from it. With Donna’s predicament being one that surrounds a subject bound to cause differing opinions, I was concerned and intrigued by how the writer/director and the performers would handle the topic. I won’t spoil the film, but let’s just say I was pleased with how the subject was handled, and felt like it didn’t speak down on people, or force opinion or political views. It is not a film about abortion, but rather a drama-comedy about a woman’s life and the crossroads she encounters, which happens to include an accidental pregnancy and an adult decision to have an abortion, something that any woman has a right to decide. It is not offensive, and I was overjoyed to see that it offered a view of “it’s okay to make this decision, and life can continue normally if you do make the decision”.
It is a short film, at under 90 minutes, but in that time it manages to develop the main characters and show the relationships between Donna and her family, best friend and Max, the guy who wandered into her life. It might be a film that those sensitive to the situation would struggle with, and I felt like as good as the performances were, they often lacked heart and seriousness, using comedy to overcome discomfort, which though realistic in approach, made it hard to feel a deeper sympathy for the characters involved. I did enjoy the film though, and felt like it made the right decisions with the way the plot unfolded. It is good to see this subject dealt with in this kind of way, allowing conversation to be opened on a topic often thought of as taboo and off-limits. It is a sensitive movie, and one I enjoyed.