Sundance London: The Incredible Jessica James (2017)

Jessica Williams appears in The Incredible Jessica James by Jim Strouse, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The Incredible Jessica James is director Jim Strouse’s irresistible rom-com vehicle for rising star Jessica Williams.

A Star is Born

by Alexa Dalby

The Incredible Jessica James

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Actress and comedian Jessica Williams plays Jessica James, a sassy, feminist playwright in New York, struggling through rejection slips and making a living being inspirational in acting classes at a children’s drama project. She’s getting over a break-up with Damon (Lakeith Stanfield, also to be seen in Crown Heights at Sundance London) when her friend Tasha (Noël Wells) set her up on a date with divorcé Boone (likeable Chris O’Dowd), who’s also not over it. Gradually, their shared sense of humour and outspoken love of speaking unpalatable truth brings them together, as they each monitor the other’s ex’s Instagram account.

Jessica is forthright about what she believes in, passionate about the theatre, committed to the children she’s teaching, and in particular one talented young girl Shandra (Taliyah Whitaker). She’s also funny, complicated and charismatic – a big personality on the outside, well-hidden vulnerability on the inside. We see, on her visit back home to Ohio for her younger sister’s baby shower, how she’s outgrown that family environment now her career has taken her to New York and also how she uses those experiences from growing up in her theatre work.

Director Jim Strouse (Grace Is Gone,The Winning Season and People Places Things) allows Jessica Williams’ energy to shine and dominate the film – which she does with ease. He lets Jessica’s imagination run free in brief fantasy sequences, usually involving her ex-boyfriend. There’s a real-life wish-fulfilment meeting with Sarah Jones, the Tony Award-winning playwright she admires.

The Incredible Jessica James is showing at the Sundance London film festival.

Picture courtesy of Sundance Institute.

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