The Incredible Jessica James
“If this is the future of media, I think I’m going to like it here.”
Title: The Incredible Jessica James (2017)
Director: Jim Strouse 👨🏼🇺🇸
Writer: Jim Strouse 👨🏼🇺🇸
Reviewed by Li 👩🏻🇺🇸
Effortlessly watchable and extremely well cast, but the film starts off at an amiable pace and never really shifts into higher gear. Watching The Incredible Jessica James is like taking a lovely stroll through a park, never unpleasant but neither too memorable.
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? YES
Check it out, a straight white dude acing the Gender category. It can be done! 🙌 Jessica James is feminist through and through. The character of Jessica, played by the buzzy and ultra-talented Jessica Williams, is an idealist in a world that aims to stamp on idealists. Her ensuing no-fucks-given attitude is such a relatable defense mechanism, and it’s a joy to watch her command the screen as she lets her passions and insecurities manifest without apology.
She reminds me of the manchild archetype—the Seth Rogens, Paul Rudds, and Chris Pratts of the world. She is flawed and sometimes hurts people, but never intentionally. She has a good heart and an aura of cool that can’t be faked, and it’s enough to make her worthy of love. It’s about time we actually get to see this complexity afforded to women and people of color, not just white male leads.
Jessica James fits neatly into the next wave of media enjoyed by Gen Zers (the generation younger than Millennials) where race is often treated as a non-event as seen in shows such as teenage drama 13 Reasons Why or Sundance darling As You Are, directed by 23-year old Miles Joris-Peyrafitte. It’s refreshing to see this progressive attitude applied to a film featuring a Millennial and a Gen Xer (Jessica Williams is 28 and Chris O’Dowd is 37) who grapple with more mature themes, such as mentorship or divorce.
Jessica James successfully wields colorblindness in a positive way by making sure to include multiple characters of color in primary and nuanced roles. It’s incredibly freeing to watch a diverse cast go about their lives without once hearing a platitude about race or discrimination. This is the future I want to live in!
At Mediaversity we don’t penalize films for lack of LGBTQ representation, due to their shorter running time than TV series and in deference to the fact that LGBTQ constitute a much smaller share of the population than the above two demographics (women and POC). That being said, Jessica James includes a lesbian character, Tasha (Noël Wells), who plays Jessica’s best friend and enjoys a substantial amount of screen time and dialogue. Hence, bonus points.
Mediaversity Grade: A- 4.67/5
As our grading system puts it, A- films are “inclusive AF.” The Incredible Jessica James is definitely that.
By traditional metrics it’s enjoyable but doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Luckily, it smashes Gender and Race barriers with refreshing ease. If this is the future of media, I think I’m going to like it here.