Starring: Rachel Sinnott, Danny Deferrari, Fred Melamed, Polly Draper, Molly Gordon, Glynis Bell, Jackie Hoffman, and Dianna Agaron.
Directed By: Emma Seligman
Where I Watched It: HBO MAX
English Audio Description Available?: No.
The Plot: A young Jewish girl (Sennett) joins her family for a shiva after having missed the funeral, totally unaware that her sugar daddy )Deferrari) is in attendance… with his own family, that she didn’t know existed.
Why It Works: A comedy that uses tradition to also break the social norms is an interesting and original premise. By forcing your characters to sit through a traditional shiva, while highlighting the awkwardness of our protagonist being a sugar baby, the opposite of conventional, is like a cinematic flash bang waiting to go off.
Which is why I love the score to this film so damn much. Someone obviously understood the ticking time bomb in this shiva, and instead of scoring the film like some random romcom or giving it some bland score you’ll forget ever existed, the film has this really rich score that seems so incredibly perfect for a horror film. Ultimately, that’s what our leading lady is, horrified and scared.
It’s not so much that she is slut shamed into oblivion, there’s only maybe a bit of a hint of that, but rather her desperation to keep this arrangement from her parents. She’s mad at the whole situation, because she didn’t know her sugar daddy was married, and she’s also dealing with a flood of emotions about having to be in the presence of his wife, and act like everything is normal.
There’s a ton of tension, a ton of laughs, and I’m surprised more people haven’t seen Shiva Baby. This should have been in the Oscar race this year. The script is excellent, the direction is perfection, the score is memorable, and the cast is on fire. no audio description for me, and there are a few moments without dialogue, and I still loved this film. I can only imagine had this film been made accessible, I would have loved it more.
What Doesn’t Work: At first, I’ll admit that I wished her sugar daddy (I love repeatedly typing that phrase) was older, closer to her dad’s age, as weird as that may sound but I initially assumed that the problem was going to be that her parents were friends with the guy, but all of that still worked, even with a younger element, and probably more so because of the addition of the wife and baby. So, no real problems here. It was just an interesting thought I had going into the movie.
The Blind Perspective: If I’m being honest, I liked it, but I’m also willing to tolerate a few really good films that don’t match my accessibility.. However, there are a few sequences without dialogue that I missed, and had to fight to piece things together. Luckily, the score was so good, I didn’t entirely mind. I can understand why a blind audience would stay away, and that’s totally fair. It’s always your choice anyway.
Final Thoughts: Loved this film. It introduced me to both a new leading actress that I hope to hear more from in the future, and a bright new female voice behind the camera that I’m excited to see what she has going next.
Final Grade: A