Monday, July 31, 2017

The Incredible Jessica James Netflix Movie Review

The Incredible Jessica James (2017)
Watch The Incredible Jessica James on Netflix
Written by: Jim Strouse
Directed by: Jim Strouse
Starring: Jessica Williams, Chris O'Dowd, Lakeith Stanfield, Noël Wells.
Rated: TV-MA

Playwright Jessica, on the rebound from a breakup, starts an unlikely friendship with a divorcee.

This is rom-com with no real plot. It's goal is to string along funny scenes rather than unfold events or drama. It fully relies on Jessica Williams to carry this, and she does to a large degree though it goes for a lot of easy jokes like online dating. Williams is the only thing that makes this passable and even then the writing is lacking.
It depends.

It presents a woman enduring the daily grind of life with enthusiasm for her dream, the theater. She proudly displays rejection letters on her wall, but she loves the theater, she just hasn't gotten any success. That doesn't deter her from trying to pass on her love for the theater to the children she mentors through a non-profit group. She apologetically confirms she's still hung up on her ex, he constantly invades her thoughts and dreams. As a character Jessica James is fascinating, but as movie there just isn't much past the character.

The biggest problem is that nothing happens in this movie.  There is no character arc, no obstacle, no conflict. Some movies can pull this off, but this isn't funny or insightful enough to really make it stick. I've read reviews that wish this was a series. It makes sense. Nothing happens in the movie, and Jessica James is a great character. This would be a series that turns small events into something, but those small events don't have the narrative strength to be a feature. The conclusion is little more than an afterthought that neither changes nor adds to what we've seen.
Jessica befriends Boone, a divorced man lost in life, and they forge a friendship. I appreciate the movie doesn't take the easy drama route by having them couple, but it takes a similarly easy approach by not having them do more than hang out a few times.

The comedy picks a lot of easy targets. This tackles online dating with Jessica being incredibly blunt. Master of None S2E4 commented on online dating so well, that this just feels tired and it's nowhere near as eloquent. Master of None crafted a commentary, The Incredible Jessica James just makes an easy joke.

There's a joke at a baby shower that falls flat. Jessica has created a weird book decrying patriarchal society for her sister, which isn't bad in of itself, but the punch line ends up being a dumb white woman that kills the joke. The joke really doesn't fit.

This has some interesting ideas, where Jessica and her new friend Boone unfriend their exes and follow each others exes so that they'll know important happenings but not be bombarded daily with updates. It's a neat idea that doesn't go anywhere. This movie actively tries to avoid over the top so much that the narrative is flat.

Movies with two characters hanging out can be really engrossing, Before Sunrise (1995) is a single conversation uninterrupted. While the format was unique, the conversations was engrossing and the question of what happens when the sun rises provided enough of a plot.

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