The Reel Review

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Danielle is having an affair with a wealthy young sugar daddy. When she joins her parents at shiva, a Jewish funeral wake, not only does she run into him but she also sees her ex-girlfriend, in this twisted dark comedy. It is adapted from writer/director Emma Seligman’s 2018 short film.

Rachel Sennott in Shiva Baby.

A cleverly constructed story and incredibly good casting make Shiva Baby a wonderfully  uncomfortable delight. Rachel Sennott is captivating as the exasperated protagonist in a death spiral of increasing awkwardness, with Danny Deferrari (Madoff) as the philanderer, Dianna Agron (Glee) as his increasingly suspicious wife, and Molly Gordon (Booksmart) as Danielle’s totally confused ex-girlfriend. Polly Draper (Thirtysomething) and Fred Melamed round out the main cast as Danielle’s oblivious parents.

Danny Deferrari and Dianna Agron in Shiva Baby.

In her feature film directorial debut, Emma Seligman has shown herself a master at capturing absurd and uncomfortable situations. With murmurs, side eyes and a terrific score, Seligman so effectively builds the tension that you can’t help but feel the claustrophobia as it closes in on poor Danielle. Shiva Baby is one very impressive debut.

REEL FACTS

• Although guests at the shiva refer to Kim as a shiksa (non-Jew), in real life actress Dianna Agron is Jewish, while Shiva Baby star Rachel Sennott was raised Catholic.

Writer/director Emma Seligman and the cast of Shiva Baby.

• Both Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott are graduates of NYU/Tisch School of the Arts.

Polly Draper (center) with sons Nat and Alex Wolff.

• In addition to being an actress, writer and director, Polly Draper also is the mother of actors Nat (Paper Towns, Ashby) and Alex Wolff (Hereditary, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle).

 

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