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
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