This is a Netflix Original. A comedy Netflix Original. One that involves romance. I am not trying to sound dubious, but I do tend to have a love-hate relationship with the Originals. Before I watched The Incredible Jessica James I took a deep breath because I was either going to be bored to death by an over-stretched storyline or satisfied by a good comedy. That tends to be the trend when I write about anything distributed by Netflix.
What’s it about?
It is about an aspiring New York playwright called Jessica, who has been delivered a huge blow when her boyfriend breaks up with her. Whilst still determined to make something of her career she starts dating Boone, a recently divorced man. The premise sounds all too familiar, doesn’t it? Like a carbon copy of previously made movies. The difference is the character Jessica, and the fact that I do not feel this is entirely a romantic comedy.
What do you mean?
The film opens up with a gag, she meets a random guy she met on Tinder, who she has no intention of progressing anything romantically with or “sleeping with” as she states. She was out to make a point that this man had expectations that were way too high, and she was using him to make her ex jealous, who then shows up at the place with his date. The obvious awkwardness provides 5 minutes of good comedy. Then the movie shows Jessica making her way home, singing, dancing and being intentionally fun and foolish. The film lets you know that this is Jessica: she is vibrant, she is cool, she is funny, but most of all she is different. It sets you straight for the rest of the film because you know exactly where you stand with this character. This is backed up by a convincing leading performance from Jessica Williams who manages to captivate you with her character’s personality.
But wait… what do you mean it’s not entirely a romantic comedy?
The movie quite obviously has plot points that demonstrate the pain of a breakup, getting over a breakup and finding someone new in a comedy-like way. Then there is a large segment of the movie where Jessica has a lot to figure out, that has nothing to do with romance. She has to figure out who she wants to be. At one point she is asked what she wants to do with herself, and she clearly does not know. The only part of her life she is convinced of is that she really wants to be a successful playwright. Above all this, the storyline pairs this with the man she has started dating (kind of) which showcases her desire to try to move on from a breakup.
So is it a romantic comedy or not?
Well, yes it is but it is not your typical conventional genre piece about a broody, love seeking character trying to find someone new with multiple gags along the way. Her newly found relationship with Boone is interesting but it is Jessica alone you are more drawn to. You want to understand why she loves being a playwright, why her relationship with her family is not great and how she came to be. The narrative played on to you is that she has to figure out what she wants in life plus a solution to her love life. The difference is that the film does not rely on a solution to her love life. If there is not a solution then I doubt it would make any difference.
Okay, so is it funny?
In the first 20 minutes I was giggling but then after that, I mustered a couple of smiles here and there. The movie meanders through Jessica’s life so much that eventually, the sarcastic and quick witted comments pass you by. You become immune to them. The film is stronger with its dialogue more than the comedy. There is one scene in particular, where Jessica and Boone are eating at a restaurant. They both try to do the usual small talking which first dates usually involve (that I hate). It is clearly not working but rather than give up on the date they both start talking honestly with each other instead. This scene alone is a great piece of script writing along with good filmmaking. The camera pans to their feet and then to the moving of their wine glasses to signify that this is it. The shackles are off and it is time to be honest. It is these moments in particular that are good in the movie.
So is it good?
It is okay. It really is one of those films that pass you by. It relies on dialogue and a strong leading character but no moments that are memorable. Despite an interesting beginning, after a while, you begin to realise there is nothing really that you genuinely care for in terms of a conclusion. You want Jessica to be happy, but in terms of what and how really didn’t transcend. I guess the only thing I wanted her rid of is her ex.
This is still worth the watch due to a leading performance from Jessica Williams. It had the potential to be more but it relies on dialogue alone and nothing much worth caring about.
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Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.