Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

The Trouble With Jessica (Film Review)

3 min read

The trouble with The Trouble With Jessica is in standing out from the crowd. For several years now we've had filmmakers from across the globe tell stories that specifically critique middle and upper social classes in the modern age. Think Saltburn, Triangle of Sadness, the Academy Award-winning Parasite. This attempt also goes down the route but to middling effect. There are some inspired moments but this is ultimately a forgettable caper.

Mostly set in an expensive London home, Sarah () and Tom () invite their two best friends Beth () and Richard () over for dinner. Unbeknownst to the hosts, Beth invites the eponymous Jessica (). Dinner doesn't go down well as tensions boil into barbed comments and heated arguments — Jessica's flirtatious, carefree and honest nature irks the others, in particular Sarah — and there are clearly secrets being kept from each other. 

After a brief respite, the gang discover Jessica snuck away to hang herself in the garden. This causes a massive dilemma for Sarah and Tom as they're close to selling their lavish house in a desperate bid to claw out of financial woes. Realising they don't have a chance of sealing the deal if anyone knew about a death on the property, they force Beth and Richard into helping them move the body out of the flat, but of course it doesn't quite go smoothly. 

It's a premise that should be fun with the filmmakers leaning into the absurdity of it all, but it takes far too long to actually get interesting. The film doesn't have its own distinct visual style across cinematography, direction and production design, but the biggest crime is the writing. Each character is fine — whilst surface-level they're convincingly played by the committed cast — but the dialogue is clunky and there's an air of over-confidence. “You can't be about to do what I think you're about to do!”, desperately exclaims a character as chaotic jazz music erupts in the background. It feels like writers and director James Handel and Matt Winn are shaking your shoulders shouting “Hey, how wild and crazy is this?”, but the film isn't as charming, clever, or engaging as it thinks it is.

After a painful first half the film does improve in every aspect, which makes watching The Trouble With Jessica a baffling experience. There's a sequence involving an impromptu house viewing and a new player's audible reaction to each room that drew a genuine laugh, and the climax of this section was genuinely tense. There was even a wonderful dolly shot that used visuals alone to pull off a lovely piece of comedic direction. More humour creeps in too, with a hilarious sex scene and a beautifully strange dance around two characters signing papers. Where was this creativity in the first half?

No matter how much the film improves as the runtime ticks on, it isn't enough to make this a memorable watch. The Trouble With Jessica tries to be funny, weird, and dramatic, but it doesn't commit to any of those tones enough to make this worthwhile, nor does it blend whatever is there to any successful effect. 

The Trouble With Jessica releases in UK & Irish cinemas on 5th April 2024