Jenny Slate Imagines a Different Kind of Complex Woman in Obvious Child

Jenny Slate
Photo: Derek Kettela

The first time former Saturday Night Live cast member Jenny Slate went to the Sundance Film Festival, it was to debut "Marcel the Shell with Shoes On," the viral video about a lovable little crustacean that has been viewed on YouTube more than 22 million times. When she went back earlier this year, it was for a different kind of movie—one with real, live humans—named Obvious Child, which makes its debut in theaters this weekend. “This is by far the best thing I’ve done in my career,” Slate tells “It’s a project that’s really personal to the people involved, and playing a woman that is complex in a way that people haven’t seen before.”

The person she plays is 20-something comedian Donna Stern, who gets broken up with, rebounds, and gets unintentionally pregnant all in less than an hour into the movie. The flick also tackles serious issues (read: abortion) with a twist of humor that could only be pulled off by Slate and her co-star Gaby Hoffmann. “This is the type of work I’ve always imagined myself doing,” Slate says. And it’s from her heart: She, alongside Brooklyn writer and director Gillian Robespierre, called upon friends to film in their New York apartments and had people crashing in their houses throughout the shoot. The movie was was funded through a successful 18-day Kickstarter campaign.

For Robespierre, the most important thing was that the movie remained relatable. “We really have been collaborating together for years with this character, trying to make her the best, realest person we can,” she says. “ I think people were ready to see a movie about a real woman who goes through real problems and deals with them in a comical way, which I think a lot of people do."

As you're watching, viewers will wonder if she’ll actually go through with the abortion. Says Robespierre, “Everyone touches on hard moments in life, but I think sometimes the best way to cope with those moments is through comedy.” We won’t tell you what happens, but we will say, it feels you’re there with her the whole time she’s making the decision—like you’re with one of your girlfriends.

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