Shiva Baby is a sexy, queer Jewish social nightmare that will give you second-hand embarrassment for days
Emma Seligman’s feature directorial debut Shiva Baby is a cream cheese-slathered, anxiety-inducing ride that offers a sympathetic, if not at all comforting, look at young womanhood.
This Jewish, claustrophobic comedy stars Rachel Sennott as Danielle, a New York City college student making money as a sugar baby. Things get complicated when she bumps into her married sugar daddy Max (Danny Deferrari) at a post-funeral service — the titular shiva — with their extended families and friends in attendance.
With a tight 77-minute runtime, the film proceeds swiftly through one of the most perilous environments for a young woman: a house filled with prying Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers. Mourning the loss of a distant relative, Danielle has to dribble her parents (the perfectly paired Polly Draper and Fred Melamed) and relatives’ skewering words on her appearance, prospects and bisexuality. Seligman builds on her 2018 short of the same name, presenting Danielle with someone who both challenges and sees her in put-together childhood bestie and ex-girlfriend Maya (Molly Gordon). It is an explosive potion, complemented by Max’s non-Jewish wife Kim (an on-point girl boss-type played by Dianna Agron) who takes an interest in the protagonist.
Shiva Baby feels like a delightfully twisted escape game, with the audience rooting for Danielle to get out in one piece. Served by a sharp sound design and a screechy horror score by Ariel Marx, this quick-fire social nightmare is fun as hell but not entirely a laughing matter.
Released 11 Jun by MUBI; certificate PG