‘Shiva Child’ evaluation: Jewish comedy does not add up

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A shiva, the ritual gathering that follows a Jewish funeral, is probably pretty much as good a cinematic gadget for uniting disparate — and dysfunctional — family and friends as the marriage, birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas occasions which have pushed numerous film comedies.

Sadly, writer-director Emma Seligman’s “Shiva Child,” regardless of its thematic acuity, crazy vitality and dedicated performing, doesn’t add as much as sufficient in its too-brief 72 minutes (plus finish credit) to warrant all of the cross-wired mayhem that will get us over the film’s doubtful end line.

Based mostly on Seligman’s 2018 eight-minute brief, the movie finds floundering school senior — and secret intercourse employee — Danielle (Rachel Sennott) unexpectedly working into her sugar daddy, Max (Danny Deferrari), at a shiva being held within the New York Metropolis-area residence (shot in Queens) of her aunt Sheila (Cilda Shaur). It’s awkward with a capital A, particularly for the reason that thirtyish Max is there together with his blonde shiksa spouse (Dianna Agron, Jewish in actual life) and their whiny child, neither of whom Danielle had any concept existed.

Chaos ensues, not solely due to Danielle and Max’s concern of publicity however the intrusive presence of Danielle’s hectoring, boundaries-free mother (a recreation Polly Draper), befuddled dad (Fred Melamed) and cheppering, at occasions gargoylish kin. Additionally there: Danielle’s ex-girlfriend, the law-school-bound Maya (Molly Gordon), with whom she performs an anxious recreation of approach-avoidance.

The movie, which visually typically evokes “The Graduate’s” claustrophobic, what’s-it-all-about ennui (final shot included), unfolds like a torturous, bagels-and-lox-strewn impediment course, one which Danielle should someway survive — dignity, privateness and independence intact. Good luck with that.

Seligman leans too closely on the Jewish tropes right here, solely partly mitigating what some might discover offensive through her characters’ well-meaning, if suffocating, concern and the movie’s amusing dollops of nervous vitality.

In the meantime, Ariel Marx’s menacing, strings-centric rating amps up Danielle’s off-the-charts angst and proves equal elements humorous and overbearing.

Certain, there’s authenticity at work — who hasn’t recognized or at the least met a number of the broad-stroked of us seen right here? However a shrewder, extra measured method might need made the movie extra accessible and interesting. As is, it largely performs like a kind of semi-hip farces from the late Nineteen Sixties or early ’70s — solely with minivans and sexting.

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