Tina Kakadelis
YA Author

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Burn Before Reading: A Carly Allen Story

The Incredible Jessica James: Hot Dogs and Laser Tag

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Listen. I was charmed. Jessica James charmed me so damn quickly. Pop culture where the main character is an endearing mess is my favorite type of pop culture. Like Bridesmaids or Girl Boss or Chewing Gum or Bad Moms. (Side Note: Why didn't anyone tell me how great Bad Moms is?! Like does no one love me?) (Also, I've heard this movie be compared to Insecure, but ya girl doesn't have an HBO hook up, sooooooo somebody help a girl out.) The movie's about Jessica James, an aspiring playwright, reeling from a recent break-up who just wants somebody to take her plays seriously. Her friend sets her up with Boone who is fresh off a divorce. The two forge an unlikely friendship and help the other get over their ex. One of the cutest scenes was where they each unfollowed their ex on Instagram, but followed the other's ex, so that the other could still stay up to date.

At one point, Jessica goes home to visit her family and be there for her sister's baby shower. Lemme tell y'all, a baby shower set to heavy metal music is everything I didn't know I ever wanted in a movie. And her homemade "ABCs of Smashing the Patriarchal Paradigm" book is incredible. (As an aside, my second favorite baby shower moment in cinema is from Catfight where Alicia Silverstone plays the ridiculous wifi-fearing suburban mom.)

What I really liked about Jessica was that she was trying. She has a whole wall dedicated to rejection letters she gets from theatre companies. A problem I usually have with these indie movies about a struggling actor or writer or whatever is that they never put in the man hours to make their resolution meaningful. Mostly they just complain for like an hour and a half and then something happens by the grace of god to let them get their dream. Jessica James didn't need no grace of god, Jessica James was working her ass off so of course she was going to get her dream.

Chris O'Dowd is such an underrated romantic lead. He was great in Bridesmaids and The IT Crowd. This is just going to be filled with my little side comments. (When aren't my blog posts filled with little side comments?) Anyway, Irish accents are my favorite accents of all time and, yes, I did just watch a weird movie called Leading Lady for this cute girl with an Irish accent. Guys, I have never attempted to bill myself as a role model.

As for the overall movie itself, it really did feel like I'd seen it before. The characters were what made it truly shine because, plot-wise, it's a little lacking. This is a rare instance where I think a TV show would've been the better route. Not nearly enough time was spent with Jessica and the kids she teaches. Or the baby shower. Or just every scene. It felt unfairly rushed.

The characters really would've benefitted with more time spent focusing on each one. There are too many funny people in this movie to be reduced to an hour and a half. Especially Damon, played by Lakeith Stanfield. Listen, I love that kid. He was in Short Term 12 and Get Out and I just think he's a great actor. Lakeith is funny and sweet, but he's just not there enough. I can't believe I'm actually advocating for a man to have more screen time in a film centered on a woman, but 2017 is proving to be a dark year.

I think that's just the thing, though. All of the characters were interesting and so well cast, but aside from Jessica, we didn't get to know them and that was a disservice. Sometimes, I feel like if the plot is more moving than the characters, then it's fine to leave them all less fleshed out. The problem with this script, was that it was every single trapping of a romantic comedy without anything unexpected. All of the dialogue was good, but it was the story itself that held everything back.

Just look at Jessica's time at the baby shower. That was funny. Her present was funny. She was so starkly different from her family and watching someone as self-assured as Jessica trying to spend a weekend in suburbia would've been great. Instead of like fifteen minutes of it in a hypothetical TV show, we got five minutes max.

It's a rare instance where I actually want to spend more time with the main character. I feel like a lot of times in these romantic comedies, I'm ready to say goodbye to the characters as soon it ends. Jessica James is someone worth spending the extra time on.

Make no mistake, though, The Incredible Jessica James is a fun hour and a half. I just wish we had more time. (Yes, that's a quote from Wonder Woman. Yes, I saw it again. Yes, it's still magical.)

(Also, in case y'all forgot, I'm on Letterboxd. Check me out. I'm funny and someone named Jizzmonkey just started following me, so I must be doing something right over there.)