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Shiva Baby – 2020 Seligman
- Shiva Baby is a frightful, and often painfully funny, delight. Director Emma Seligman works with composer Ariel Marx and it is scored like it a horror movie matched with the anxiety-riddled scenes in Punch-Drunk Love.
- Rachel Sennott plays Danielle. Danielle spends 70 of the 77 minutes at a shiva (Jewish period of mourning following a burial) with her parents (who seem to be trying to grind her down into a fine powder), her current lover, his wife and kid, her ex-lover, and a bunch of vultures in the form of family and friends.
- Shiva Baby is a 77-minute-long high wire act exercise in discomfort. It is clear early on that Seligman has no intention of letting Danielle leave the shiva setting. Not only is Marx’s score a thing of beauty- but Seligman fills the complex audio mix with accentuated annoyances like a baby crying.
- Hilariously-biting dialogue like “you’re like Gwyneth Paltrow on food stamps, and not in a good way” and then telling everyone about her extended awkward chubby phase.
- Seligman often goes in for the closeups in her shot choices—not quite zooming in—but certainly letting the wall of ambient sound and off-camera dialogue clutter the audio mix while the camera hones in on (this sounds like Altman) the distressed Danielle (above). It is both humorous, and claustrophobic.
- It is a tribute to Seligman’s cinematic skill that she can make you jump during the middle of the day (in broad daylight) when an aunt or a friend of her mother’s puts an arm on Danielle’s shoulder.
- Danielle is a mess – bleeding, chugging wine, constantly getting harassed—this film captures (and has a scene of this happening) the feeling we all have if we can’t find our smartphone.
- Shiva Baby has much in common with 2015’s Krisha from Trey Edward Shults– this is less impressionistic than Shults work.
- Recommend- perhaps even leaning Recommend / Highly Recommend border