Shiva Baby Movie Review
Shiva Baby plays like a mid-stage episode of the defunct TV series Girls. It has the same smarm and the squint-eyed edginess of the show about young women navigating sex, love, and family, but doesn’t quite have the punch or swagger that a story in its prime would possess.
Emma Seligman writes and directs this comedy-drama adapted from a short by Emma Seligman, about a college student named Danielle (Rachel Sennott, who played Danielle in the short) who runs into her married sugar daddy while attending a funeral with her parents.
It’s an amusing premise to say the least, and an amusing if slight film that seems to stretch for its merciful 77-minute runtime.
Sennott is excellent in the lead, craftily balancing, toying with and shifting between the complexities of her character. She is young and naive, yet also a woman with sexual prowess, and also a daughter, and also just a person like any other, and we all know we eventually run into our sugar daddy at a wedding or a baseball game or a work event or, heaven help us, a funeral. It’s clear why Seligman stuck with Sennott from the short film, as the largely unknown actress carries the film.
Seligman delivers on a lot of little moments, and if little moments are your thing, great. The parts don’t entirely add up, however, which is frustrating given that you can see how close she is to making it all click into a finely tuned, awkward as hell comedy. Instead, Shiva Baby nails the awkward bits—the final scene, delivered with such simplicity but epitomizing what much more of the movie should have felt like—but whiffs on the humor, making you wonder if these 77 minutes were really worth it.
Shiva Baby comes close, and for some that will be more than enough, but there isn’t enough here to come out of the casket for.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.