The story that Netflix‘s new indie rom-com follows is a familiar one. You have your twenty-something woman in a creative field, living in a gorgeous apartment in the big city that you know she could never afford in real life and she has some sort of angst. She meets ‘The Sort of Bloke She Never Goes For’, then they hit it off. Because it’s indie rom-com, there’s articulate, clever dialogue and banter, the new relationship hits the skids, but it’s all alright in the end, when Our Heroine (aided by Sassy Best Friend) triumphs over her angst and things work out for her and The Bloke. Straightforward enough — we’ve all seen it a few times over, at the very least, and the key to making it work are the twists to the tale, and The Incredible Jessica James boasts a few of these that redeem the formula.
Jessica Williams is breezy and utterly charming. Her character is resolutely forthright and has some incredible laugh/cheer moments, like shutting down a manspreader on the subway with just a Look, and telling a dull Tinder date that she’d rather have her period for a thousand years than continue with the awkwardness. She’s awesome here, and she was awesome as the youngest-ever correspondent on The Daily Show. Confession; I was a fan then, and I’ve been waiting to see what she’d do next. This doesn’t disappoint me at all.
It’s refreshing to see the strong Black woman in the rom-com get to be the lead, and not the sassy best friend. The sassy best friend in this case is a little bit Token Gay, but the realness in her scenes talking with Jessica about vibrators, art, gender, sexuality and heartache are smart and funny enough to work.
Also shockingly smart and funny in this role is the Irish Interest portion of our review; Chris O’Dowd as aforementioned Bloke. As Boone, the whey faced app-designer/divorcee love interest, he comes off as a bit of a sad-sack — initially functioning far better as the other half of Jessica’s Lonely Hearts Club in which they Instagram-stalk each other’s exes to keep the other informed than as any sort of love interest. Then he drops the bombshell that nearly made me spit-take: “I’m also good at cunnilingus.” Nice. It’s truthfully the first time I’ve enjoyed Chris O’Dowd in anything.
It’s a rainy day/lazy Sunday sort of a movie, clocking in at an easy hour and a half. If you enjoy indie rom-coms, you’ll enjoy this. And, hey, any movie featuring a too-cute baby shower interrupted by the gift of a hand-made book entitled The ABCs of Subverting the Patriarchal Paradigm is worth a look in my opinion.