This is your one and only life. What do you wanna tell people about it?
Netflix is on a role with its original films. Tonight, I watched a film I have been anticipating for months now, The Incredible Jessica James. The critically acclaimed film debuted at Sundance this year, and showcased the charisma and talent of leading lady Jessica Williams. I had the fortune of hearing her speak at the Women’s March in Park City, and have been fascinated by her ever since. She’s a natural leader, and unapologetic.
The Incredible Jessica James is a quirky story about a playwright in New York City, coping with a messy breakup. At the beginning of the film, Jessica is still harboring angsty feelings for her ex-boyfriend Damon (Lakeith Stanfeild). Not only that, Jessica has been receiving constant rejections for fellowships at theater companies. Jessica is longing to become a big-name playwright, but her efforts are foiled by life’s setbacks. At this point in her life, Jessica has many revelations that are unveiled to her by her complicated breakup.
Jessica pays her bills by working as a teacher for a non-profit organization where she teaches school children how to write plays and embrace their creativity. Jessica discovers something special in her reluctant student Shandra (Taliyah Whitaker), and pushes her (and Shandra’s parents) to the point of annoyance, at times projecting her own frustrations onto Shandra.
In order to help Jessica rebound, her peppy best friend Tasha (Noel Wells) introduces Jessica to a recent divorcee and app creator named Boone (Chris O’Dowd). Boone is also rebounding from his breakup in his own way. The two develop a strange romantic relationship centered around their obsession with their exes. Over time, the two develop affections for each other and learn to let go of their pasts. At the conclusion of the film, Jessica receives a prestigious fellowship from a theater company in London, and as she’s sitting on the plane, looking hopeful- we’re left to wonder where her life is going to go from here on out.
This film is unique in the fact that it doesn’t stereotypes its lead characters. We often don’t get to see Black women be awkward, and its refreshing in this film. Although Jessica isn’t perfect, she’s confident in herself. She’s brutally honest with everyone she meets, and is OK with admitting that she’s not OK. She’s tough, but vulnerable if that’s a thing. Jessica’s persistence and optimism are admirable. What The Incredible Jessica James succeeds at the most is its humanity. No one truly has their life together, and this film lets us know that.
ADRIANA, THE CINEMA SOLOIST