By Andrea Chase
Annotated with animations of childlike innocence about deeply grown-up issues, FULLY REALIZED HUMANS is a brashly honest, slyly wise comedy about one couple’s quixotic attempt to rid themselves of their emotional baggage before the imminent birth of their first child.
In the course of their journey, they will reinforce their emotional intimacy, face their parental issues, and alienate most of the people around them. What is so wonderfully unexpected is how much you root for them no matter how uncomfortable things become. After all the awkward conversations and the hormonal fluctuations that make hummus a flashpoint, their relationship is nothing short of aspirational.
The trigger for Jackie (co-writer Jess Weixler, who was in the late stages of her own pregnancy during the shoot) and Elliot (co-writer/director Joshua Leonard) is a questionable baby shower, where the party chatter turns to crib deaths and loss of identity. Returning home, the couple’s squabbles over events of the day and shopping mistakes lead them to the conclusion that years of therapy have only made them aware of their failings, but they have not actually cured them of same. Needing a quick fix before Jackie gives birth, they brainstorm activities that will shake them out of their complacency, only one of which will both do the trick and be safe for a woman in her eighth month of pregnancy. In short order, they have made the required trip to a sex toy emporium, experienced a power shift in their sex lives and gender paradigms, then spend the rest of the film (mostly) gleefully dealing with the fallout.
Weixler and Leonard have created the perfect romantic ideal while also eschewing the trappings of rose-colored romantic fantasy. These are people completely grounded in the everyday, while also evincing a love that is patient, kind, and altruistic even as they get on each other’s nerves from time to time. The Irony of their quest is that they are, for all practical purposes, already where they want to be. It is the desire to be better not just for the baby, but for each other that is the soul of romance and so enticing. Romeo and Juliet died for love; Jackie and Elliot live for it. One is much sexier, at least to my way of thinking.
More, there has never been a cinematic couple so deft at real communication, nor one more tender, even when squabbling. This is not the romance of glamor, soft lighting, and purple prose. This is two people who have each other’s backs. Thanks to the performances from Weixler and Leonard, they also have the easy rapport of a couple that are solid, even if they aren’t perfect. In fact, they make perfect seem, well, boring. Their body language is that of people completely at ease with one another, and the way they look at each other as if they are really seeing one another and being delighted with what they see every time. Watching other people in the film: friends, salespeople, parents, and the doula who wonders what she has created with her advice, react to the couple whose puppy-like enthusiasm provokes confusion and anger, is a telling and deliciously effective comedic device about how rare what Jackie and Elliot have is. There is no better affirmation of Socrates’ statement that the unexamined life is not worth living… Certainly, it’s not as interesting.
FULLY REALIZED HUMANS feels spontaneous, which is also part of its appeal, and integral to a story that is willing to take as many risks as its protagonists. If you feel uncomfortable, that’s what Weixler and Leonard are going for, and you’ll be just as rewarded as their characters are for sharing it with them.
FULLY REALIZED HUMANS is showing virtually at the SF IndieFest through February 21, 2021.
Sonic Cinema Podcast interview with actor and director Joshua Leonard.
Andrea Chase has been reviewing movies on radio, television, in print, and via the internet in the San Francisco Bay area for over 20 years. She says, “After moving here from Louisiana many years ago, I received my film education the way nature and the Lumiere Brothers intended–in movie theaters, both the mainstream venues that showcased the latest from La La Land, and the art houses that were more numerous in days gone by. They gave me a thorough grounding in current and classic cinema from all over the world and from the silents to the latest cutting edge Hong Kong flick.”
She is a member of the Women Film Critics Circle, as well as the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, and has been heard on non-commercial syndicated radio since 1996, and on British Forces Broadcasting throughout the world. Currently, she is the Movie Chick on KGO-Radio’s Maureen Langan show, her series, Behind the Scenes, is part of PRX.org with over 350 episodes, and she contribute reviews to The New Fillmore. Both Rotten Tomatoes and the MRQE link to her site, KillerMovieReviews.com, making the world safe for film lovers since 2002 with reviews and interviews. Read her other reviews and interviews for EDF.