Shiva Baby, available to buy or rent on Prime Video, is a comedic look at how one misunderstood woman survives a shiva. Rachel Sennott stars as Danielle, trapped in a house with a nosy, gossipy, group of Jewish mourners.
When Shiva Baby opens, we are in a spacious apartment where Max (Danny Deferrari) pays Danielle for sex. Her mother (Polly Draper) calls at the climactic moment to remind Danielle she’s expected at a shiva. The remainder of the film takes place in the overcrowded, claustrophobic suburban home of the deceased.
As soon as we meet Danielle’s mom and dad (Fred Melamed) we grasp some of her issues. She’s in college but has changed her major numerous times. She told them she makes money babysitting (ha!). The parents are unhappy with her behavior, don’t understand her choices, and definitely want her to find a man and a job. Now!
Inside the home, people are shoulder to shoulder and can hear every conversation and whispered argument anywhere in the house. Every conversation is mortifying to Danielle as people comment on her love life, her major, her future, her weight, and her eating habits. Mom warns Danielle to stay away from Maya (Molly Gordon).
Maya has other ideas. The two were high school sweethearts and still have a lingering attraction and connection. At one point they talk in the alley, argue about who texted last, and kiss passionately before going back inside. Maya can see that something is going on with Danielle and it has to do with Max being there.
Yes, Max is there.
Turns out Max has an absolutely gorgeous blonde wife (Dianna Agron) and an 18 month old baby girl. They bring the girl to the shiva. (Who brings a baby to a shiva?) The wife is a business woman who makes all their money. If that wasn’t enough of a blockbuster news flash about Max, he also used to work for Danielle’s dad and dad can’t make over the baby enough.
Max and Danielle have a stare down throughout the entire event. She doesn’t want anyone to know what her babysitting job really is. He doesn’t want his wife to know he’s getting sex elsewhere. The wife is no dope, however, so there’s that problem. Max is overly interested in whether Danielle has other ‘babysitting’ customers, so there’s that problem. Maya adds a third angle to the stare down because she’s watching every move the two of them make.
Spilled food, awkward confrontations, hopeful offers of BJs in the bathroom, new babysitting job opportunities, and more invasions of her personal space drive Danielle from room to room in search of privacy or rescue. None is available.
Shiva Baby was written and directed by Emma Seligman. It’s easy to say the comedy in this film comes from its absolute Jewishness, but its more universal than that. Disapproving parents who don’t understand a lack of a life plan or bisexuality or a need to separate from one’s parents exist everywhere. We can all identify with cringe-worthy parents, right?
I enjoyed the funny dissonant music by Ariel Marx, who punctuated the most uncomfortable situations with alarming plucked violin strings.
The cast is brilliant. Even the people filling the rooms behind the main cast have moments of glory. Rachel Sennott is terrific as Danielle.
Here’s the trailer.
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