Thursday, August 10, 2017


Welcome to another installment of WHAT'S ON NETFLIX?, where we pick out a film or series currently playing on Netflix and review it for the fans. This week's selection is the romantic comedy THE INCREDIBLE JESSICA JAMES.

I'm having a hard time making up my mind how I feel about The Incredible Jessica James, Occasional Reader. I don't like it, but it's also one of those instances where I'm disappointed that Netflix got rid of their star rating system. Giving this one a thumbs-down seems unfair, because there are things to like about this movie. Maybe it deserves two stars out of five. Caught in the right mood, I might even go as high as three.

The Incredible Jessica James is the story of a young woman, played by Daily Show character actor Jessica Williams, who left her home in darkest Ohio and came to New York City to chase her dream of becoming a playwright. At the start of the movie, she's three-and-a-half months removed from a bad breakup, and her dream continues to be elusive, so she's trying to keep her head up in the face of adversity. Now that right there is a story most people can relate to. I can especially commiserate with a fellow Midwest refugee; that part of our otherwise glorious nation is a marvelous place to be from. And she had the guts to leave what she knew and pursue a better life for herself! Rock the heck on! These days, that's the definition of bravery in my book.

So it's a shame that Jessica starts off so unlikeable. Even by the end of the film, when we've learned she's using her boyfriend-of-the-moment for free plane tickets, she's still not anyone I would want to meet. She's curt, arrogant and rude to just about everybody. She spouts so many "I'm better off single" bromides ("you shouldn't need another person to validate you", etc) that it comes as little surprise to learn she's using it to hide her loneliness. Over the course of the movie she lightens up some, but she never ceases to be off-putting.

The movie puts me in mind of director Jim Strouse's previous effort, 2015's People Places Things, which was also about a crabby jilted lover venting their bitterness on the world in general. Other than the race and gender of the main character, there's very little difference here. The story just sort of meanders from one episode to another, taking frequent breaks to remind us how "human" and "real" the characters are, until the credits roll. You can kind of see where the funny was supposed to be, and sometimes its even there, but generally the story just kind of passes by, like a slideshow of someone else's vacation. There's a story here, after a fashion, but not a very interesting one.

I guess I made up my mind about this movie after all. I'm sitting here trying to think of more details from this movie to discuss, and I find I can't remember any. You'd never know I literally just finished watching the film not two hours previously. And I think that really says everything that needs to be said: if a film is so forgettable that it induces a kind of short-term amnesia, it isn't worth seeing, whatever it's strong points.

Robert's Score: 4 / 10

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