Saturday, February 24, 2018
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THE INCREDIBLE JESSICA JAMES: A Quirky Indie With Its Own Identity

The Incredible Jessica James has an infectious charm to it, bolstered by Williams' strong lead performance and a positive central message.

THE INCREDIBLE JESSICA JAMES: A Quirky Indie With Its Own Identity

Upon watching the opening scenes of The Incredible Jessica James, I was neither notably impressed or unimpressed, because it seemed like the atypical introduction of your average comedy. But as the rest of the story unfurled and I learnt more about the purpose of Jessica’s identity, it truly struck a sense of cinematic importance.

As is always said, first impressions are everything; and the general synopsis doesn’t particularly help in buttering up initial inklings of what it might be like. In short, it tells the story of an aspiring playwright in New York who strikes up a friendship with a guy while on the rebound from a breakup. This suggests that the movie is your standard romantic comedy with a few decent one-liners and some tacky aerial shots of the New York skyline. However, this Netflix original has a bit more to it than what it may give away at its exterior surface.

THE INCREDIBLE JESSICA JAMES: A Quirky Indie With Its Own Identity

source: Netflix

At its core, The Incredible Jessica James opens up an entirely new perspective of what this style of comedy can achieve. The obvious early themes of friendship, lost love, a sassy female lead and millennial technology are quickly wiped out and replaced with critical thinking, cultural movements, and intelligent questions that could leave even the smartest audience perplexed.

The Importance Of Identity

Director Jim Strouse has cleverly created a film centred around the modern era of dating that many of us are all too familiar with – and it’s a hit in more ways than one.

Jessica’s first attempt to bounce back from her break-up is by going on a Tinder date, with the hope that her ex shows up and sees them together. In one short conversation during her date, Jessica provides a critique on dating services and then calls out the shameful ridiculousness in the hookup culture that is evermore popular among young adults.

THE INCREDIBLE JESSICA JAMES: A Quirky Indie With Its Own Identity

Chris O’Dowd in The Incredible Jessica James– source: Netflix

Instagram is also heavily featured in the film, which shows us just how much social media has become a huge part of our relationships and daily life. By putting an emphasis on apps like this, The Incredible Jessica James is a much more believable story that also gives some witty commentary on today’s society and its adoration of social media.

But more important than this is the emphasis on having an opinion and a belief in something that the rest of the world may not understand. Jessica is the leader in this trend, regularly airing her sentiments about the culture we live in to her family, best friend, and even strangers. This, more than anything, is what makes this film so irrevocably distinctive. It paves the way for anyone who watches it to assess their own identity and ask themselves the big questions; which is a hugely powerful achievement for a condensed comedy.

Wasted Opportunity

Despite the strong underlining messages and the ‘food for thought’ techniques, The Incredible Jessica James isn’t perfect. Unfortunately, the film does fall flat with its failure to make the most of Williams‘ comedic prowess. In other words, there just aren’t generally a great deal of laugh-out-loud moments. 

What is satisfactory, however, is the type of sense of humour going on within the story. It only takes a matter of seconds in the opening scene to know that Jessica is a bit of an oddball, with a unique talent for blunt sarcasm and comical scrutiny. This is consistent throughout, and although sometimes reflected as a bit too hostile, makes a refreshing change to the safe comedy we regularly encounter in cinemas.

THE INCREDIBLE JESSICA JAMES: A Quirky Indie With Its Own Identity

Jessica Williams in The Incredible Jessica James – source: Netflix

The problem with this is that there are frequent instances where the script is simply trying too hard to be funnier than it is. Because of this, there are a few scenes that could have been developed much further; and as the film is a mere short-lived 85 minutes in length, it’s evident that there was a lot of room for growth in these areas.

That being said, there are still many convincing moments of tenderness between Jessica and her new beau Boone – a recent divorcée played somewhat predictably by Chris O’Dowd – and in her interactions with the kids she’s tasked with coaching as part of her job working at a nonprofit children’s theatre program.

It’s in these moments that we see another dimension to Jessica and discover that she has a lot more to her than just a sharp tongue, wacky dance moves, and charismatic confidence.

A One Woman Show

Feisty behaviour aside, The Incredible Jessica James is special for one very specific reason: Jessica Williams.

In just 85 minutes, the former Daily Show correspondent proves that being a front-runner doesn’t need to involve stunts, gimmicks, or being a clichéd sex symbol.

Without being over the top, unlikable or dramatised, she manages to elevate a perfectly predictable comedy into a total blast. She’s relatable in all the best ways, unlike a lot of modern day female leading ladies. She’s charming, quirky, quick-witted and unapologetically strong-willed. Although performances from Chris O’Dowd, Lakeith Stanfield and Noël Wells are equally as pleasant, she completely steals the show without even trying to.

Contrary to the journey of many other female characters in movies of this type, Jessica James knows exactly who she is; and even the people closest to her are completely unable to destroy her spirit or break through her barriers when it comes to her persona. She shows absolutely zero remorse for her lack of empathy towards people, and not once does she hint that she’ll stop standing up for what she believes in. These are all traits that the cinema needs for a female lead who is unsupported by a fellow actor of the same standard. Even in spite of her brutal comebacks and godawful sense of style, I cannot praise her portrayal of Jessica enough, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

The Incredible Jessica James In A Nutshell

Even if stripped-back comedies aren’t your cup of tea, Jessica Williams will be. This is a movie that has more to it than what first meets the eyes, and it’s so worth delving into if you’ve got the patience and the understanding to relish in it for exactly what it is.

Which Netflix original movie stands out most for you? Let us know in the comments!

The Incredible Jessica James is now streaming on Netflix.

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Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.

I'm Alice. I'm a writer, blogger, film nerd, determined dreamer, foodie, vino inhaler and reality TV nut. I have ambitions to become a crazy dog lady in the very near future - www.welcometothelabyrinth.wordpress.com

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