Finding the Funny When Life Gets Messy

I’ve always appreciated the ability of people to laugh in the face of life’s absurdities. Life can throw you curveballs, and sometimes it can get you down, but while there are times to be sad, angry, or even outraged, I’ve often found that the best way to deal with the many challenges life can throw at you is to laugh. Perhaps that is why one of my favourite films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was Obvious Child, a comedy written and directed by Gillian Robespierre, because it does precisely that; it deals with a challenging situation through laughter. I attended an early morning screening of this film earlier this week, and it quickly jumped to the top of my Sundance favourites list.

Obvious Child tells the story of Donna Stern, a New Yorker who works at a second hand bookstore by day, and as a stand up comedian by night. After being systematically dumped and then fired, Donna embarks on a series of coping mechanisms that culminates in a drunken one night stand, one which leads to what is quite possibly the worst Valentine’s Day ever. While the above description may not sound like a comedy, this film revels in finding the funny where you least expect it, and it manages to strike the perfect balance of humour and gravitas its subject matter deserves. The cast is across the board fantastic, but it is Jenny Slate as Donna who truly shines as a woman trying to deal with the hand she’s been dealt with a smile on her face. Slate’s performance is both hysterically funny and movingly authentic, and Donna’s friendship with Gaby Hoffman’s Nellie is one of the most genuine portrayals of female friendship I’ve seen onscreen in a long time.

Today, the 2014 Sundance Film Festival comes to a close, and as I reflect back on the many wonderful films I’ve seen in the past 10 days, it’s clear to me that this was a banner year for the festival. I loved each and every film that I saw for a myriad of reasons, and the quality of stories and filmmaking that I witnessed was incredible. But in picking my favourites, I keep coming back to that early morning screening of Obvious Child. I knew nothing about the film going in, but as I came out, my spirits were high and my cheeks ached from laughing, and I commend the filmmakers, cast, and crew for creating this wonderfully hilarious and poignant film that reminds us that when life gets messy, laughter truly is the best medicine.

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