“The Incredible Jessica James” checks all the boxes for a solid Valentine’s Day film.
If you’re like me, Valentine’s Day during the pandemic has largely centered around cooking a nice meal, eating chocolate and scrolling through streaming services to find something inoffensive and short: enter “The Incredible Jessica James.” Is this movie a masterpiece? No. Does it need to be? Also no. It tries, and often enough that is all anybody really wants on this holiday that only continues to exist because of marketing companies.
Let’s start off with the good in this rom-com. “The Incredible Jessica James” balances the story of two people recovering from breakups with its witty dialogue and just enough sex to not make it awkward. Jessica Williams, playing the titular character, oozes confidence throughout the film but always manages to feel vulnerable and real when needed. Chris O’Dowd uses his natural charisma to make shameful moments into something endearing. Noël Wells’s character Tasha is probably too perfect of a friend but brings joy to the film regardless.
Normally, mentioning the runtime might signal that something went wrong but this movie glides by in an hour and twenty-five minutes, letting you get to the more important part of Valentine’s Day. That could be eating too much dessert or something a bit more sensual. Either way, this movie will not stand in the way of your plans.
Removing the rose-tinted glasses reveals some minor issues with the film. Mainly, the plot is generic. It tries to mix it up with a revelation here and there like revealing that she’s getting over a breakup even though she was the one who ended the relationship (gasp!) but these moments do little to differentiate it from other breakup-centered rom-coms. When Jessica leaves New York to go to her sister’s baby shower, the film loses its purpose for a bit. It’s a good section for comedic purposes but is neither romantic nor necessary. When a film is this short, every scene should be necessary.
It is important to note that even though I find the plot to be lacking, the movie differs in an important way from most of the films available on streaming services: a black woman is the lead. This is a breath of fresh air in a style that traditionally has been dominated by affluent white people. “The Incredible Jessica James” certainly doesn’t push the envelope, but this alone provides new perspectives, imagery and jokes to permeate into an otherwise stale genre.
What makes this a good Valentine’s Day flick though is that it can serve a number of purposes. If you are recovering from a breakup then this film can be about rebuilding hope and confidence. LaKieth Stanfield plays the ex, and if she can get over him, chances are you’ll get past your ex as well. If you’re in a relationship, this won’t kill any moods you have set up and you really don’t need to pay too much attention to it. “The Incredible Jessica James” is a fun film that you can enjoy no matter what mood you are in on Valentine’s Day, just don’t expect much more than that.
[“The Incredible Jessica James” is streaming only on Netflix]