Most of what’s wrong with The Incredible Jessica James is baked into the script, which is a true piece of shit. I could be more eloquent in my assessment, but honestly, there’s really no better way to express it. Jessica Williams, who plays the title role, has had a fair bit of acclaim for her work as a correspondent on The Daily Show as well as her guest turn on HBO’s Girls. If this was meant to be her breakthrough role, all I can say is – better luck next time. As a movie, Jessica James is a few things…trite, uninspired, ill-conceived, poorly written and soporific…one thing it’s decidedly not is incredible.
The story – such as it is – revolves around the world of Jessica James, a young, aspiring playwright living in Bushwick. Recently dumped, she spends the film alternately obsessing over her ex-boyfriend, Damon (Lakeith Stanfield), and her stalled dream of making it in the theater. Along the way, she tentatively enters into another relationship with an older, recently divorced Irish guy named Boone (Chris O’Dowd). Their budding romance is a cursory sketch and utterly devoid of chemistry.
And, that’s about it in a nutshell.
I’m not trying to be snarky, that’s literally what makes up 99 per cent of the film. The other 1 per cent is comprised of a lengthy scene of Jessica dancing around like a dipsydoodle, apropos of nothing other than, I suppose, to show how incredible she is.
As an actress, Williams is limited to say the least, though truthfully it’s such an undercooked vehicle I couldn’t really say how she’d fare in a meatier role. Perhaps she’d be perfectly serviceable – who knows? All I do know, is that the writing is untenably godawful. First off, throughout the film we are told – the key word — how obsessed Jessica is with the theater, it’s her raison d’être, what she’s wanted to do since she was a child., yet, we are given absolutely no indication or example of her talent. At the very end of the film, she hands her romantic interest, Boone, a collection of her plays to read and his tepid reaction after reading them is: “You’re a very complicated woman.” That’s it.
Of course, the script being an excrescent, hackneyed ball sack of clichés, she ultimately receives an invitation from a London theater group to direct one of her plays for the stage. Do we ever get to see even a snippet of her genius realized? Of course not. We just have to take it on faith that it’s incredible.
So, to sum it up, Jessica James fails on all fronts – the story is non-existent, the characters are ciphers, and the acting is middling at best. In short — it’s a true piece of shit. A swing and a miss for Williams to be sure, but don’t worry…she’s still got a couple of more strikes left at the plate. Let’s hope she hits a homer on the next pitch.
As a movie, Jessica James is a few things…trite, uninspired, ill-conceived, poorly written and soporific…one thing it is decidedly not is incredible.