There’s a moment early on in The Incredible Jessica James that seals the deal for your opinion on the movie. Jessica, played by Jessica Williams, is talking to the divorced mother of one of her theater kids about why her daughter can’t come to a writer’s retreat. The mother informs her about the challenges with even getting a custody agreement and Jessica tries to bulldoze her into letting the daughter go, even going so far as to say what she’s saying is stupid. There’s no tact, no empathy, and no nuance in this moment, but it’s quintessentially Jessica and it encapsulated all of the reasons why this film doesn’t work. The Incredible Jessica James aka Blacks Can Be Quirky Too! leans much on it’s desire to be fresh that it forgets to be real.
Jessica James is a character that we meet at a real down point in her life. She just broke up with the love of her life, she’s being rejected by different theater companies, and has become the outlier in her family. Her friend sets her up on a blind date with a divorced app developer (Chris O’Dowd) and they seem to hit it off. Complications naturally arise and Jessica has to manage the many aspects of her life.
Everything described above seems cliche (cause it is) and the film knowing this presents us with characters that are relatable with a twist or people we’ve never seen before. This works for most movies and despite the ridiculousness, seems to be something that can carry this one to the finish line. The problem is that the balance of character quirks and realistic situations doesn’t seem to jive from scene to scene. The movie moves at a brisk pace and relies on the charm of Jessica and Chris but I never really found a way into the movie. It’s just too much eccentricity from everyone, too much SEE THIS IS A CHARACTER YOU HAVEN’T SEEN BEFORE, to really keep my attention.