Utopia has released the first trailer for “Shiva Baby,” an absurd Jewish comedy about a college student who runs into both her sugar daddy and her ex-girlfriend at a family funeral. “Shiva Baby” marks the feature directorial debut of writer/director Emma Seligman, who developed the feature from a short by the same name, which was her NYU thesis film. “Shiva Baby” premiered at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival to largely positive reviews, including by this critic, who wrote: “Bearing a likeness to the early work of Joey Soloway and Jennifer Westfeldt, “Shiva Baby” blends a claustrophobic Jewish humor with a sexy premise to deliver a lively debut.”
“Shiva Baby” follows chaotic bisexual Danielle (comedian Rachel Sennott), who arrives late to a Jewish funeral, also called a shiva, after a stressful morning trying to extract payment from her sugar daddy Max (Danny Deferrari). Polly Draper and Fred Melamed are pitch perfect as Danielle’s parents, who futz and preen over her with a hilarious blend of neuroses and suffocation. When Max shows up at the shiva, blonde shiksa wife (“Glee” star Diana Agron) and baby in tow, Danielle’s woes have only just begun. As if that weren’t enough, her high school best friend turned frenemy and onetime sweetheart Maya (Molly Gordon) is going to law school, while Danielle is languishing without direction.
Seligman’s script is witty and pithy, making good use of the single setting, which is always a shrewd move for a first feature on a budget. The conversational nature of the script lends itself to tight shots and quick edits, which has the effect of running suffocating circles around Danielle, who is usually centered while the other characters are shot over the shoulder, helping keep the focus on her inner turmoil. Ariel Marx’s tense string score ratchets up the tension.
Seligman’s splashy debut attracted attention from Elizabeth Banks’ Brownstone Productions, which is slated to produce Sennott and Seligman’s next collaboration, “Bottoms.” Earlier this year, Sennott debuted opposite Kyra Sedgwick in the ABC series “Call Your Mother,” from “The New Adventures of Old Christine” creator Kari Lizer.
Utopia will release “Shiva Baby” in select theaters and TVOD on April 2. Check out the trailer for “Shiva Baby” below.