Thursday, August 31, 2017

Movie Review: "The Incredible Jessica James" (2017)

Director: James C. Strouse
Year: 2017
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

An aspiring 25-year-old playwright has just gone through a rough breakup, one she isn't quite over yet. In an attempt to help her move on, her best friend sets her up on a date with a 30-something-year-old divorcee who is also having trouble getting over his ex. The two don't seem to have that much in common, but they manage to find a way to bond, and they may potentially have something bigger if they can each move on from their pasts. 

Is it a coincidence that both of writer/director Jim Strouse's last two films have featured a character who is a middle-aged divorcee having trouble moving on with his life? Another commonality between "The Incredible Jessica James" and his previous film "People Places Things" is that they both feature Jessica Williams, who found great success on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" This time around, Williams has moved out of a supporting role and into a titular one as Jessica James, an aspiring playwright who makes a living teaching drama/writing classes at a non-profit organization. This actually turns out to be another common thread between Strouse's last two movies, the main character in each movie teaches creative arts. "Jessica James" is a slightly offbeat romantic comedy that pairs the aforementioned divorcee named Boone, played by Chris O'Dowd, up with Jessica James in an unlikely relationship where the two seem to have little in common but somehow manage to bond at least partially over their obsessions with their respective exes. 

On the surface, "The Incredible Jessica James" seems to be yet another quirky unique indie comedy. It takes place in New York City, the characters are hip intellectuals who are socially conscious and a little ashamed of their small town roots, and use millennial jargon like "totes," "presh," and "penetraish." This movie feels like something that might normally star Greta Gerwig, but we welcome Jessica Williams in her stead. There are a few interesting bits of humor, like a running gag where Jessica imagines herself running into her ex-boyfriend and how at the end of each encounter, he is killed in some cartoonish way. As the film rolls further and further along, however, it does start to feel more and more like a run of the mill, formulaic Hollywood rom-com. It really plays out the standard boy meets girl story where Jessica and Boone don't hit it off at first, then they realize they like each other but have a sudden conflict and a falling out while everything in the protagonist's life seems to be down in the dumps until an ultimate resolution comes about and all is well in their H.E.A. (happily ever after, if don't you watch "Jane the Virgin" as religiously as I do).

We do really like Jessica Williams a whole heck of a lot. We have always found her extremely funny and immensely delightful, especially when she was a correspondent on "The Daily Show." She does a great job as Jessica James and we think she has a solid future as an actress. Chris O'Dowd plays his very witty, usually charming self. He is always capable of bringing the laughs with his self-deprecating shtick. Finally, Lakeith Stanfield doesn't get a lot to do portraying Jessica's ex Damon, but he is also good whenever he gets some screen time.

Though this may be something pretty formulaic and doesn't offer much in the way of newness, "The Incredible Jessica James" is still an enjoyable watch mostly due to the strength of its cast and their chemistry with one another. This film has a lot to say about following your dreams and never giving up on what you want despite feeling lost and drowned by other more successful people in your chosen field. A solid rom-com from all involved!

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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