Releasing on Netflix this week, The Incredible Jessica James is one of the best comedies that I’ve seen this year.
Written and directed by Jim Strouse, the comedy stars Jessica Williams, Chris O’Dowd, Lakeith Stanfield and Noël Wells. Zabryna Guevera, Taliyah Whitaker, Sarah Jones, Will Stephen, Susan Heyward, and Megan Ketch also star.
Jessica Williams, The Daily Show alumnus, breaks out in her role as Jessica James, a young playwright in New York City. At the start of the film, James is recovering from a breakup with her ex-boyfriend, Damon (Stanfield), and doing her best to make it in the theater scene. After her best friend, Tasha (Wells), essentially forces her into dating again, she meets Boone (Chris O’Dowd), who recently split with his ex-wife Mandy (Ketch). At first, their relationship seems like something that wouldn’t ordinarily happen but in this social media-obsessed culture, they are somehow able to make it while having each other stalk their ex.
Even as she struggles with her writing career, Jessica works at a non-profit where she helps a young group of students with writing and staging their scenes. and is able to get them the chance of a lifetime with being awarded the chance to work with the Tony award-winning actress and playwright, Sarah Jones.
Writer/director James Strouse has given us a modern comedy that is both innovative and genuine, going as far as dwelving into several comedy subgenres while not picking anyone outright: breakup movie, rom-com, buddy picture, career-girl. It shows what it means to be someone in their 20s in this decade. For Strouse, this was a passion project and he would not have gone forward without Williams, who was cast in a supporting role in his previous outing, People, Places, Things. Williams is an actress that Strouse has said that he wants in all of his work going forward.
Following it’s premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, The Incredible Jessica James played the festival circuit, including a stop at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre for the Chicago Critics Film Festival with Strouse and Wells in attendance for a Q&A following the screening. The film plays more like an independent film so Netflix should prove to be a good fit at finding an audience–something that would have been with the crowded box office.
The Incredible Jessica James premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Netflix will release the film on July 28, 2017.