From Shiva Baby(2020), dir. Emma Seligman (image courtesy Brigade Marketing)

NYU senior Danielle (Rachel Sennott) has seemingly no post-college prospects but is keeping herself comfortable by playing sugar baby for Max (Danny Deferrari). But she abruptly finds multiple disparate elements of her life colliding when she attends a shiva for a family friend with her parents, only to meet Max there as well … along with his wife and baby. With them, her family, her heavily judgy community, and her ex-girlfriend from high school, Maya (Molly Gordon), all present, Danielle has to juggle the different, previously segregated selves she’s created for the world.

That’s the equally harrowing and humorous premise for Shiva Baby, writer/director Emma Seligman’s debut feature, adapted from her short film of the same name. It’s one of the most exceedingly, pleasingly Jewish movies I’ve seen in some time, possibly since 2009’s A Serious Man, smartly working with the social mores and conventions of middle-class Long Island Jews. Danielle’s conflicting identities play into these exterior entanglements. All this makes Shiva Baby a fun, punchy little cringe comedy.

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Shiva Baby opens in select theaters and on VOD April 2.

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Dan Schindel

Dan Schindel is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Brooklyn, and a former associate editor at Hyperallergic. His portfolio and links are here.

One reply on “At a Shiva, a Young Woman Encounters Her Ex … and Her Sugar Daddy”

  1. Tried to see this as a comedy, but found it profoundly sad and actually mean spirited and annoying. I kept telling myself it was a short film to see it through but I opted out for the last 20 minutes with a sigh of relief.

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