If you’ve ever wanted to feel good about being a weirdo, The Incredible Jessica James is for you. TIJJ follows the unabashed Jessica James’ (Jessica Williams) attempts to navigate the modern concepts of love, success and family.
James (played by the smile-inducing Jessica Williams) is a struggling New York playwright who also teaches playwriting to young kids on the side. We catch up with her on a Tinder date, mid-slow-motion-car-crash and the fun just keeps right on going from there. The genuine appeal and positivity of Jessica James is as infectious as it is endearing. Imagine a much, much cooler Pollyanna/Anne of Green Gables that you’d actually want to hang out with and you’re approaching the full Jessica James effect.
A big part of the film’s appeal is in seeing how this life-affirming, cocoa-queen handles manspreaders, lame part-time jobs and hanging with her square family in Ohio. Paired with her real-life imaginary friend Tasha (Noel Wells who charms the pants off of every scene), James makes hanging in New York feel like 24/7 summer camp for hipsters.
The men in James’ life range from her (not-quite-over-her) ex-boyfriend Damon (the immensely talented Lakeith Stanfield) and freshly divorced/possible new boyfriend Boone (Chris O’Dowd) and each show a different side of James’ idiosyncratic approach to romance. Director Jim Strouse side-steps a common cliché in these kinds of films by not making her story all about romance and finding fulfillment in another person. With TIJJ, Strouse uses James’ search for creative fulfillment as the REAL romantic entanglement.
James’ desire to “make it” as a playwright is largely a driving force in the movie, not the romantic subplots. As she projects much of her insecurities about finding success onto her interactions with her family and her students, we begin to see that romance is just one more thing getting in the way of what she really wants. It’s only when she meets Sarah Jones (her idol and real-life Tony award winning playwright) that James’ life is put into perspective.
A lot of people will see this as a rom-com and while there are elements from that genre, The Incredible Jessica James is exactly what the title implies – a character piece about an instantly engaging and mesmerizing persona that will leave you wishing you had someone half as cool as her in your squad.
And Jessica Williams is friggin cool af. Like, the coolest.
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