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Monday, August 14, 2017

Film Review: The Incredible Jessica James (2017), Relationships and Dealing with the Future

"So, what? life is just a series of failures in the first place."
Starring: Jessica Williams, Chris O' Dowd, Lakeith Stanfield, Noel Wells
Written By: Jim Strouse
Directed By: Jim Strouse
Release Date: July 28, 2017 (Streaming on Netflix)
In the new Netflix original film, The Incredible Jessica James, our titular character, Jessica James (Jessica Williams) is pretty much a clear, cut example of what it means to be a millennial today. However, as a generation that receives the most flack for simply being themselves, Jessica Williams brings a cool, charming and extremely honest air to the familiar tale of a 20-something trying to make it in New York that anyone of any age can relate to. 
The premise of the film isn't one that is hard to follow. Although there isn't a distinctive plot that we follow, we can see that she's having a bit of a struggle. Jessica James is a struggling playwright. She's also a theatre teacher, but she feels like there is something bigger for her than teaching out there.While she hangs rejection letters up in her room in order to figure out what exactly what that is, she expects her boyfriend to be right by her side as the most, if not only, certain thing that she has in her life. However, after he leaves, the many uncertainties of her life begin to reveal themselves and we, as the audience, are thrusted right in the middle of the mess that is her life as the film begins. This mess is illustrated by the dance routine we see her do at the beginning of the film. It is messy and strange and there's not much development to it, just like her life and just like the film itself. However, putting the lack of the development to both the routine and to Jessica's character throughout the story, they both are fun to watch. Jessica is enthusiastic and highly involved in the routine, much like she is with everything. Though Jessica and the audience may not have a lot of answers about Jessica's life or their own, her finishing the routine and somehow making her way to the top of her complex reflects that she has to ability and the strength to shuffle past the ambiguity in order to fully enjoy what's right in front of her and the same thing goes for us.
 The culture we live in has us programmed us to push ourselves to achieve our goals in a way that doesn't allow us the time to revel in what we've actually achieved. Everyone is always so focused on the future and how they're going to get to the next step in their lives. People are worrying so much about how they're going to get to where they want to get to the point that it overcomes them and it's all they can focus on. Films and TV shows like The Incredible Jessica James and even HBO's Girls prey of the types of anxieties that many viewers may have about their own futures in order to develop relatable characters that appeal to their struggles. Stories about 20-somethings attempting to make it big typically work well because watching people struggle while attempting to make sense of their lives makes it easier for other people to do it for themselves. Jessica's story shows you just how simple and easy being happy with what you have can be if you let the unimportant things fall to the backburner and simply do what want to do.
For example, regardless of Jessica trying get on with her life with an influx of Tinder dates and an unapologetically, charismatic attitude, she still finds herself stuck on her ex-boyfriend. Though she expresses an extreme distaste for the act of dating and marriage because they're tired societal traditions, she still misses the intimacy and physical connection that comes with sharing your life with another person. While she recognizes that this can do all of this with someone else, she unconsciously feels like she has unfinished business with her ex and refuses to acknowledge this fact. During some of film's dream-like sequences, we're shown that not only did Jessica have a lot of questions for her ex while they dated, but that she still has a lot of questions for him currently. Each interaction begins with her attempting to ask him the questions she has and ends with something causing her to come back to reality before they can be answered.
What are we? How do you feel about me? Why aren't we happy? Are we dating exclusively? Are we in a long-term commitment or is this just a fling? These are often the questions 20-somethings like Jessica are often asking themselves instead of the other person. They would rather find the answers themselves and cause themselves stress rather than let it go or talk to the other person about whatever is bothering them directly because they don't want to push certain expectations onto another person and complicate things. Although Jessica says she doesn't care repeatedly, it's obvious that she does, but that's because she feels like she needs these answers in order to move on and she's trying to force them to appear when they honestly don't matter at all. A lot of the answers to most of life's questions will come with time, but what society has done is create a world where waiting has become an obstacle. We are all focused on the future on moving on to the next thing that time has become an enemy. We either don't have enough of it to finish what we need to do or fighting with it because it's taking too long for us to get to where we need to be. But none of that really matters because we are the ones who determine whether or not we are where we need to be. We determine how much or how fast we develop and although Jessica doesn't develop much, the point that the movie is trying to make is that sometimes people don't have to.
Jessica is  trying to find some peace and fulfillment in her career as well as in her love life. Though she can pay the bills and works with very talented and bright kids on an everyday basis, she dreams about winning awards and Oprah remembering her name. All of this is nice, but what would any of this mean for Jessica? What would that change about her and most importantly, why are any of that important and why should these things define anyone's talent? Again, this is all societies doing. It's conditioned people to believe in only one version of success which basically amounts to fame and money, rather than happiness. After a conversation with one of her favorite Tony-award winning playwrights, Sarah Jones, her original mindset shifts. Sarah tells her that even though she's seemingly achieved everything that Jessica wants, she is still just like her. Jessica wants to "make it", but Sarah Jones prompts her to question really what that means in the first place. Jessica has the life she wants in front of her. She has a job that she's passionate about that can pay the bills. She has a loving boyfriend and they're both completely honest with one another and enjoy each other's company. Who could want anything more than that?

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