Review | Hilarious queer comedy ‘Shiva Baby’ opens this week

Shiva Baby | Dir: Emma Seligman | ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

The opening scene of this film shows an awkward situation when Danielle (Rachel Sennott) has to remind her sugar daddy Max (Danny Deferrari) to give her money after their sexual encounter where, even though she is bored, she gives a passable sound of having reached orgasm. Eager to get away, Danielle is further embarrassed when Max gives her a bracelet and promises to help pay for her law studies at Columbia University.

Danielle, who is actually studying media and gender studies in college, is at the centre of this fast-paced Jewish comedy. Canadian writer, director and co-producer Emma Seligman shows the extreme pressures and expectations that well-meaning Jewish families can exert on their offspring, and what can go wrong when someone builds a huge fiction to meet those expectations.

Attending a Shiva (a post-funeral celebration) at the request of her parents who think she has been babysitting, Danielle is further embarrassed to bump into her more successful ex-girlfriend Maya (Molly Gordon). The intensity is still there as the two circle around each other in the tight confines of the rooms crowded with gossiping relatives and acquaintances.

The moves are tightly choreographed and the snippets of gossip are hilarious. Danielle has lost weight since high school and one of the observant crowd observes that she is now “looks like Gwyneth Paltrow on Food Stamps”. As the women exchange advice and match make, Danielle and sugar daddy Max notice each other across a room. As if things couldn’t get more awkward, Max’s gorgeous wife and adorable baby arrive at the Shiva.

Danielle is about to learn that sending a provocative sexy image from the bathroom is probably not a good idea and Ariel Marx’s music highlights the discomfort as her world implodes. Although the unfolding dramas are tragic for Danielle, it is a highly entertaining and hilarious farce for the audience.

Lezly Herbert

This review was originally published 10th February 2021

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