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The Incredible Jessica James plays life as a theater

Jessica Williams in The Incredible Jessica James, which closed the 2017 Sundance Film Festival
Jessica Williams in The Incredible Jessica James, which premiered at Sundance 2017

Among the first films at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival to generate real buzz among audiences and the industry is director Jim Strouse’s cheekily titled The Incredible Jessica James.

The narrative dramedy revolves around the title character played by Jessica Williams, the American actress-comedian best known for her television work on the third season of Girls and for her four-year run as correspondent for The Daily Show.

So, is she (incredible, that is)? Yes. While the film has a strong supporting cast, it’s Williams show to win or lose and the incredibly personable actress takes no prisoners in her portrayal of a Millennial playwright trying to find her path in work and life.

In the universe of Jessica James, sex is casual, relationships are tenuous and work just one step away from the dole.

That could have been a formula for excess but the director skilfully walks the line between sentiment and snark to create an entertaining work that begs for a sequel. This is the 20-something’s Bridget Jones.

Honestly, there’s not much of a plotline here or rather, enough for maybe a half-hour TV show. Instead, Strouse wisely focuses the film as a character study of an engaging, warm, generous and forthright personality. What’s not to like?

If there’s a criticism, it’s that the film about the life of a blossoming playwright is, well, stagey. There’s little cinematic about its structure or camera work.

It has the feeling of the new style episodic TV series. Interestingly, Netflix grabbed the worldwide rights to the film before it even premiered at Sundance.

Indeed, if the movie is any indication, Jessica Williams just might be the next great female comedic talent of television (nods to Lucille Ball and Mary Tyler Moore).


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