Reviews Shiva Baby In Emma Seligman’s delightfully anxiety-driven comedy “Shiva Baby,” the post-funeral service rites of a Jewish family and friends are interrupted by a chaotic series of one-upmanships and unexpected guests.
Based on Seligman’s short of the same name, “Shiva Baby” follows Danielle
(Rachel Sennott) on her way to meet her family for the somber occasion after
an appointment with her sugar daddy.
Once reunited with family, Danielle’s parents Debbie (Polly Draper) and Joel (Fred Melamed)
put her in bad spirits with their fussing and arguing as they head into a house to mourn
an old family friend, someone Danielle doesn’t quite remember but is pretty sure played cards with her grandmother.
However, her stress is just beginning.
Danielle runs headfirst into a slew of questions about her future prospects, both professional
and personal, from family friends and relatives. Then, she spots an old childhood friend
she had a relationship with, Maya (Molly Gordon), someone her mother now instructs her to avoid.
The awkward situation gets even more complicated when Danielle’s sugar daddy,
Max (Danny Deferrari), arrives at the party. His wife Kim (Dianna Agron) and their baby, Rose, will soon arrive.
Now, Danielle must navigate between prying questions about her life while stifling her horror at being stuck in the same house with two people she kept at a distance.
Writer and director Seligman bottles these inter-personal tensions and slowly simmers them to boil, escalating each situation by just the right amount until the film’s ultimate crescendo and final punchline.
The result is a painfully funny comedy that feels both universally relatable in its depiction of awkward family dynamics and very specific to Danielle’s experience of watching her sex life collide with her religious community
. There’s almost no other ally she can count on at the shiva, and every new room brings with it a new set of unpleasantries.
Even before she steps into the house, Danielle is on guard against others’ judgement, yet it’s all she seems to find in whispers and side-long glances. But it’s not without a valiant defensive effort.
She rehearses her answers about what she’s doing with her life with her parents so that everyone
is on the same page.
It’s the kind of mental gymnastics and fake pleasantries one does to save face, like a pained smile
to soothe over any disapproving raised eyebrows. Seligman captures these performative nuances with astute precision.