We’ve mentioned before that Obvious Child is truly, utterly and undeniably the movie of the summer. You can imagine our excitement when Director Gillian Robespierre and Producer Elisabeth Holm were in town and invited us to chat with them at a Café in downtown Toronto.
On the back patio of Boxcar Social on Yonge Street, I sat with Gillian and Elisabeth as we discussed the pro-life protestors who have taken stage at theatres in Tampa, Florida which were showing the movie. The ladies rolled their eyes. “At least they’re not protesting outside abortion clinics,” they said. They conceded that while the pro-lifers might not like a flick that shows a truthful side to abortion, the local Tampa papers have been raving about the movie and it’s exceptional comedy. Donna, the main character of the film, has a unique voice and humour. “She is the voice of three people,” Gillian said. “Myself, Elisabeth and the actress herself, Jenny [Slate].” That’s a whole lot of funny.
Over a brief twenty-minute convo and some iced espressos, Gillian and Elisabeth tell me what their creative goals were for the film. “We wanted to put something subversive in the space generally reserved for romantic comedies,” Gillian told me. “We took the genre of romantic comedies and followed the structure of it to make something different and tell a story from a different perspective of love and life,” Elisabeth added. The two suggested that not every woman experiences the typical ‘romantic comedy life’ and aimed to shed light on the various lives women in fact do live, the ones that are perhaps not all Kate Hudson and a little more Kathleen Hanna.
I asked them how they felt about media and news sources reviewing the film as something ‘subversive’ seeing that it deals with abortion, an issue many women deal with regularly. “We’ve seen this story multiple times,” Gillian said, nodding towards films that depict abortion as scary, dangerous or wrong. “These films homogenize choice.” Elisabeth added: “We wanted to portray the common reality of abortion that we’ve not seen in the genre of romantic comedy. In this way the film becomes subversive because we have put something ‘modern’ in a classic space.”
Obvious Child, though more hilarious than any of us actually are, is a movie that truly depicts romance and sex more realistically than any films we have seen as of late. The conflation of ‘subversiveness’ and ‘feminism’ with a movie that these women just wanted to write to depict a certain reality says more about the media and consumers of such media than it does about Gillian and Elisabeth’s goals. The interview wraps with both women telling me that in their films they seek out moments of vulnerability and want to explore the grey areas of life – an area from which the brainchild Obvious Child was certainly born.
Watching Obvious Child and having met these wonderful women, I can say that my life experiences have been seen under new light – the Disney idea of romance and the sugar-coated romcom serving of sex haven’t rung true in my life, and now I don’t feel bad about it.
Elisabeth and Gillian tell us they’re working on a feature titled ‘Untitled Divorce Comedy,’ a film I’m sure will be as honest as their last.