“You look like Gwyneth Paltrow on food stamps–and not in a good way.”
If the 2010s were about being your own GirlBoss, then this decade is dedicated to the anti-GirlBoss introduced by newcomer (and ultimate rising star that I’m obsessed with) Rachel Sennott. 🖤
Shiva Baby is adapted from director Emma Seligman’s thesis from NYU, which premiered at SXSW in 2018. The seven-minute short also features Rachel Sennott as the lead, and the two would eventually go to explore new territory with a full-length feature film in 2020.
The movie is set at a Jewish funeral service (also known as a Shiva) where 20-something bisexual Danielle (Rachel Sennott), a gender studies college student, juggles the awkwardness of being with her family while running into her sugar daddy and former lover…all at the same Shiva. Yikes, right? If that doesn’t sound like the most awkward scenario, think again.
Shiva Baby is my nightmare realized. Critics are calling this a solid horror film masked as a comedy that delivers cringe scene one after the other. The Jewish undertone may seem foreign to some, but the humiliation-humor is universally understood. Shiva Baby reminded me what the hazy, uncertain almost post-college life was like, and made me absolutely fall in love with Rachel Sennott’s IDGAF on and offscreen personality.
Danielle is what anxiety-cinema is all about. She tells her parents she’s babysitting when in reality she’s “sugaring” with Max. She pretends to have job interviews lined up to tell relatives at the funeral service, but in actuality has no clear path set forth for life after college graduation. She constantly dodges questions about her sexuality, and when she’ll find a good Jewish boyfriend, even though she has feelings for her ex-girlfriend (also at the Shiva) Maya.
It’s a lot to dissect, but let’s talk about her casual “sugaring” career. Movies like Pretty Woman or True Romance have always depicted sex workers as either the “hooker with a heart of gold” or “damsel in distress needing salvation”. But we’re in the 21st century, folks, and sugar dating, also called sugaring, is the norm these days. And Shiva Baby does a fantastic job at normalizing the reality of it.
“I was raised pretty religious…then I got to college, and everyone was like, ‘Be a slut and cancel your family.’ When I went home for the first time, I felt these two different versions of myself fighting against each other. I think [Danielle] has the version of herself that she plays when she’s with Max, which isn’t even the real her, but she enjoys playing that. And then she plays [a version] for parents, the relatives, and with Maya. So I feel like she almost gets whiplash because she’s trying to cover all her bases.” Rachel Sennott via Elle.
It’s a coming of age story taking place in one day, and for anyone who has ever felt the need to be someone else around certain people, this movie will hit you hard. Newcomer Rachel Sennott is a modern day revelation and an honest breath of fresh air. Expect to see great things come from this anti-GirlBoss! 🖤