Every critic abroad seems to love this film about the most unloveable heroine I’ve seen since Kate Hudson in How To Lose A Guy In Ten days. This is How To Lose A Guy During A Shiva. Let me hasten to add that this Shiva has nothing to with our Hindu God. This Shiva refers to the Jewish custom of mourning the dead for a week. Danielle (Rachel Sennott) is Jewish…and bi-sexual. Just like the film’s director. So it would be fairly accurate to suppose that Rachel Sennott is playing the director.
Having got that out of the way, let’s just saw what follows is interesting only if you are gossipy and Jewish, probably both. The sweaty hustle and the bewildering bustle at the Shiva are captured in abbreviated shots which cut from one guest to another without giving us pause to analyze what exactly they feel. We do know that Danielle’s innerwear is in a bit of a wedge. She has just finished having sex with her professor Max when she must accompany her parents like a dutiful virgin daughter, to the Shiva where she bumps into Max, his beautiful wife and their bawling baby. The feminine gaze on male deception is sharp, as are some of the conversation that defines Danielle’s place at the party, and beyond it at large. But these snatches of disconnected conversation tell us nothing about the character’s feelings.
The feeling of a whole congregation of people together in an overcrowded room saying things about one another that mean absolutely nothing to us leaves us with a claustrophobic feeling of having stepped into a landmine of loquacity that leads to nothing productive.
Danielle to begin with is a tiresome teenager who thinks it is cool to roll one’s eyes every time Mama explains how to behave or Papa points the right way. Danielle may not agree. But it seems her life is a huge mess. The Shiva only accentuates her shortcomings. She locks herself in the bathroom and sends a sexy selfie to poor Max in front of his wife and the bawling baby…I call him “poor” only in comparison with the totally unsympathetic portrayal of the heroine. Whether it is the young actress who has failed or it is the character that lets down the plot by being nothing but a self-centred brat, we will never know.
Thankfully we only have to spend 77 minutes with Danielle. They seem like an eternity. But then I may be wrong. ‘Eternity’ is not quite the words that fit into the mood of this sweaty messy talkathon. The best part of the fidgety farce is the end when Danielle’s father tries to squeeze in all the main characters into his roomy car while leaving the Shiva. Cramped together in the backseat is Danielle and her estranged girlfriend Maya now happily reconciled, holding hands. It is the only tender moment in this brittle, brackish brew of the bawling baby and the Jew.
Directed by Emma Seligman, Shiva Baby gets 2 stars!
Image source: IMDb