The Incredible Jessica James (2017)

  • Time: 83 min
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Director: James C. Strouse
  • Cast: Jessica Williams, Chris O’Dowd, Keith Stanfield

Storyline:

An aspiring playwright in New York strikes up a friendship with a guy while on the rebound from a break-up.

One review

  • Written especially for Jessica Williams, best known as the youngest correspondent on television’s The Daily Show, The Incredible Jessica James, like so many of writer-director Jim Strouse’s works, is a deceptively low-key work whose charms insinuate themselves to warm the cockles of one’s heart.

    Williams plays Jessica James, a frustrated aspiring playwright whose rejection letters serve as wallpaper for her Bushwick apartment. She spends her days teaching kids theater for a nonprofit, commiserating about her personal and professional travails with goofy best friend Tasha (Noël Wells), and wondering why boyfriend Damon (Lakeith Stanfield) recently split up with her. After all, she’s smart, funny and intelligent. She also happens to be hilariously no-nonsense as her latest Tinder date quickly discovers. “I would literally rather have my period for 1000 years non-stop than continue this portion of the conversation,” she counters when he wonders how long she’s been on Tinder.

    She’s no less straightforward on her next date with the recently divorced Boone (Chris O’Dowd), though he proves he can dish it out as well as he can take it. When she notes that being with him reminds him of how he’s not Damon, Boone responds that the feeling is mutual – Jessica is the complete opposite of his ex-wife (Megan Ketch) for whom he still carries a torch. Jessica and Boone bond over the failure of their respective relationships, soon becoming the unlikeliest of bedfellows, even helping wean each other from obsessing over their exes’ Instagram accounts.

    That’s really the extent of it, story-wise, but The Incredible Jessica James is so strongly infused with Williams’ and, to a lesser degree, O’Dowd’s immensely warm and likable presences that it rises above its conventional nature. Both characters are enormously relatable and their romance unfolds in leisurely but always believable fashion. Both are never quite sure what exactly they want from one another or even if their relationship should be more than what it is, but that uncertainty makes their rapport all the more endearing and touching.

    It may say something about the state of affairs in film today that two of this year’s undisputed breakout stars are both African-American women, Williams in this film and Tiffany Haddish in Girls Night. Both are comic firecrackers, with a confidence that belies their relative acting inexperience. Williams really powers the film, which will hopefully be the start of a long and fruitful film career.

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