The Incredible Jessica James
Starring: Jessica Williams, Chris O’ Dowd, Keith Stanfield, Noel Wells
Directed by: Jim Strouse
Don’t let this title fool you. The Incredible Jessica James is complicated in all the right ways, and that is what makes her so amazing.
Jessica James (Jessica Williams), an aspiring playwright, tries her best to get over a breakup from ex-boyfriend Damon (Keith Stanfield). She’s started to go on dates plus attempting to focus on work, mentoring aspiring young playwrights, to move on. For what it’s worth, she’s taking the first steps. However, her incredibly high standards and preconceived judgments are greater than the men who step into her life. When Jessica meets Boone (Chris O’Dowd), an app developer and recent divorcee, she’s he’s put off at first, but eventually and slowly grows to like him. Everything starts to come to a head when both of them can’t seem to get out of their situations enough to make it truly work.
Before we get a little deeper, I’m going to come out and say this. The Incredible Jessica James should have been a Netflix series. At first, I thought it was going to be. This film is something Netflix should have seen and told everyone working to go back and expand upon it. The story itself compels even the most cynical of people and beats out some of the current Netflix shows on the slate, like Friends From College. I found myself wanting more than an hour and forty minutes with these characters. I wanted to dive deeper into Jessica and Damon’s relationship, what happened in London, where Boone and Jessica stand. It would’ve been lovely to stay in this world longer, but I must admit, it’s fantastic the way it is.
Jessica Williams shines as Jessica James. She’s not only drop dead gorgeous as a leading lady but hilarious, witty and above all else, herself. Watching The Incredible Jessica James made me feel as if I was watching Jessica Williams’ biography, even though I knew I wasn’t. She was just that good and can easily make herself a heavy hitter outside of The Daily Show.
Chris O’Dowd can do no wrong. Even when he does, he’s such a goddamn babe. I’ve been a big fan of his since his days on The IT Crowd and has built up an excellent resume. He does a fantastic job in his role as Jessica James’ new love interest Boone. He’s sympathetic as a new divorcee who can’t move on until he meets Jessica. He’s witty and sarcastic as her, which helps their characters connect, but one thing I was so surprised at was the chemistry between Jessica Williams and Chris. They start off as awkward, but when their characters connect, they connect. There’s one sex scene that completely blew my mind and even made me blush a little. They were so compatible and made me want more.
One thing I liked about the film is that it carries the “dope black female” archetype. However, it turns it around on itself. It keeps it in check but makes Jessica look at her situation and think. It’s so refreshing seeing movies like this as a young black woman. This film lays the groundwork for other black female characters to come out and declare themselves as magnificent. It claims that they don’t have to be strong all the time and allow for themselves to be complex and complicated beings.
Jessica’s complexities are not in the perspective of a Hannah (Girls, 2012) or Issa (Insecure, 2016), but her own. Her complexities lace itself within her backstory, her pride and her failures that let itself tell the story now. She comes from a broken home, but the effects of that are very ingrained inside of her, spilling into her relationships and work. So, she gives herself unapologetic unwavering confidence to block out the bullshit that comes into her life. In a scene, she tells Boone, “Of course you do. Everyone does. I’m freakin’ dope!” Which, you would immediately think of as cocky, but you shouldn’t. Jessica swims in thoughts, the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s the first time seeing a character on screen that’s, again, just so unapologetic.
There are so many things about this film that I wish I could fit into this review. The film carries so many little things inside of it, for example, the meaning of mentorship and influence on a younger generation, relationships and how to get over or under them, the beautiful aspect of honesty and, the coolest of all, a devotion to the sense of “making it.” Being a twenty-something year old always comes with its level of complications. We all want to “make it” and do anything possible to get there, but what does that even mean? The Incredible Jessica James gives you a brief sentence of that. If you’re doing what you love, you’ve already made it.
Verdict: WATCH IT! You’ll be missing out on something special if you don’t dive into The Incredible Jessica James. At times, Jessica can be insufferable, but her realness just outshines all of that. I can’t express enough how fantastic this movie is. I’m even thinking about writing up a full film analysis on it sooner or later.
Also, remember to tell yourself every single f*cking day: