The Incredible Jessica James is your chance to get reacquainted with one of the funniest women in comedy.
Released this weekend on Netflix, The Incredible Jessica James is the latest original film on the streaming service's growing roster, and also a showcase for former Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams talents as a lead actor. The former Daily Show alum quickly established herself as a comedic force to be reckoned with during the tail end of Jon Stewart's tenure on the show. But outside of an appearance on Girls and the odd small film role, Williams has mostly stayed off of screens. Her most high-profile project since leaving The Daily Show has been a podcast. But now, she's finally back in the spotlight, and we couldn't be happier.
There's a reason why watching The Incredible Jessica James turns into an appreciation of Williams's talent: the film, which was written and directed by James Sprouse, is pretty formulaic. As far as romantic comedies go the plot is pretty paint-by-numbers: Williams plays the titular protagonist, an aspiring playwright trying to get over a recent breakup. Spending her days teaching theater to children for a nonprofit and her nights struggling through Tinder dates and writing plays, James struggles with the ennui of unfulfilled potential and the unlikely relationship she strikes up with a recently divorced app designer (Chris O'Dowd).
Structurally, it's a movie you've seen before—maybe even several times. But it's so capably done and charmingly funny, you won't mind the least bit. What makes The Incredible Jessica James stand out—other than terrific performances from Williams and co-stars like O'Dowd and Noël Wells— is in the effort it puts towards being a romantic comedy that emphasizes the “comedy” part, while still being completely earnest and heartfelt throughout. And all of it is carried by ease with Williams, dancing her way through the credits, firing off hilarious barbs at dates, telling off man-spreaders and other annoying men with naught but a perfectly timed gesture. She's also tremendously sincere, and moments of vulnerability are just as compelling as the most delicious burns.
I like to think of good romcoms in terms of seasons. When Harry Met Sally is a great film for fall, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is best enjoyed during the bleakest part of winter, Top Five is great around the holidays. The Incredible Jessica James is a summer romcom, but not the oppressive, sweaty, primal kind. It's more for the kind of day where it's hot but not unbearably so, where you sit in your home with an air conditioner that's working but not quite hard enough, as you shuffle in slight discomfort, wondering what to do with yourself.
Might as well put on a fun movie.
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