When it comes to parenthood, no parent or guardian is ever fully prepared. For Elliot (Joshua Leonard of The Blair Witch Project) and Jackie (Jess Weixler of Teeth & The Good Wife) in Fully Realized Humans, they have convinced themselves that they are ready to be parents. After all, they’re reading multiple parenting books, getting up to date with all of the safety tips, and they even go as far as to hire a doula. But when Elliot and Jackie are amongst friends at their baby shower, that’s where their fear and dubiety of parenthood are rendered frighteningly lucid.
Sitting at a table with friends, Elliot and Jackie are inundated with parenting advice and horror stories. A friend named Beatrice (Jennifer Lafleur) makes a forthright comment on how women do other women a disservice when they talk about their own birth experience because it’ll vary from person to person. Couples flippantly mention how they raised their own children, and how their own parents successfully or halfheartedly raised them. Everyone at the table goes on to underscore how Elliot and Jackie’s child will essentially become the focus of their life. Another friend named Zach (Zach Shields) somehow thinks it’s a prudent idea to disclose how he watched his parents “deteriorate” as a happy couple.
Surely, relationships collapse due to many hurdles, which may or may not include the difficulty of raising a child, but it’s probably best not to bring that up to a couple expecting their own bundle of joy. It’s understandable why Elliot and Jackie are rethinking their readiness for parenthood — and their insecurities and parental doubts guide them down a hilariously strained path to discover themselves and overcome their faults, some of which can be traced back to their own upbringing.
The Final Countdown
Joshua Leonard and Jess Weixler (who’s actually pregnant in the film) not only lead the film in front of the camera, but they operate as co-writers behind the screen. Along with being a writer and the lead actor, Joshua Leonard once again helms the director’s chair. After 2011’s The Lie — which also featured Joshua Leonard and Jess Weixler as a dithering couple — they are both back to decipher the serpentine web of parenthood with more outrageous misadventures.
The film opens to a rollicking animated introduction of Elliot and Jackie, which collates Dead Kennedys’ California Über Alles and stick-drawn cartoons. It’s a delightfully airy start, but when we first meet the spirited couple Elliot and Jackie in their real-life manifestation, they’re in the midst of a doula session, and the conversation gets increasingly disquieted. In the opening scene, it’s made clear that Jackie’s parental concerns reach a sincere if seemingly absurd development. She goes on to talk about going to the store the other day to purchase a car seat. “I felt like a shitty mom for going to buy the cheapest car seat cause it was the lightest one, and it was the one that was recommended to me but it wasn’t the highest-rated one. I totally lost it”. A tense and garrulous Jackie discharges these words at the scarily collected doula, who then calmly suggests that Jackie should make time for lecherous pleasure to mollify her stress.
Joshua Leonard and Jess Weixler play a quirky couple whose strives for self-improvement are undeniably unfeigned. They are technically doing everything right to prepare for the arrival of their child, but then their baby shower enlivens new apprehension. After the baby shower, a visibly agitated Jackie rips Elliot a new one after he buys a tub of hummus, considering they already have one, a bigger one for that matter. So what does any good partner do to alleviate his other partner’s parental tension which is being filtered through anger, he eats the hummus straight from the tub. The heated fray now simmers down into a rom-com antic that seems to make sense given the couple’s zany personalities.
Elliot and Jackie are exactly four weeks away until they officially become parents. It’s the final countdown before their entire life changes, which understandably prompts a deeper evaluation of their lives up to this point. During this moment of introspection, Jackie yearns to be the one in control of their marriage, at least for a minute, while Elliot desires to unleash his inner rage that’s been brewing ever since his childhood. These valid yearnings lead to an uncomfortable carnal escapade, a brisk fight that comically unfolds at a boxing studio, and a freeing drive up the coast. After having done all that, only then will they circle back to confront their own parents.
Joshua Leonard and Jess Weixler‘s script draws up a series of kooky scenarios that evoke emotions and fears that justify reflection, for the couple and viewers alike. When it comes to romantic relationships, control is one attribute that habitually fluctuates, or one that is perniciously exploited by one partner of the relationship. To maintain the comedic flow of the picture, the discourse on control is handled with effective physical mirth, which soon becomes all the rawer when the lustful act thrusts Elliot into a soul-stirring breakthrough. When it comes to childhood ire, there are many factors that can elicit an eternal scar. In this case, Elliot has been gravely impacted by his father’s austerity. Jackie and Elliot’s amusing trek steer them back to their relationships with their own parents, and that’s where Joshua Leonard unearths harsher truths and unsolvable dilemmas regarding parenthood and identity.
As society evolves, so does parenting. It seemed like forever ago since parents perceived physical confrontation as a productive form of parenting. Nowadays, such drastic attempts are looked down upon. Commonly, a parent may look at how their parent(s) or guardian(s) raised them, and then decide what they would do themselves, and what they would do differently. But what if one’s parent assumed the “bad guy” role because that’s the role their own parent played? Maybe it is a generation thing. In the conclusion of Fully Realized Humans, Jackie and Elliot converse with their parents to dispute the parenting defects that greatly affected them.
Awkwardly ventilated over the course of 15 minutes, Jackie and Elliot go back and forth with their defensive parents. And of course, there’s a generation line that’s drawn to warrant some of the characters’ past behavior. Michael Chieffo plays Jackie’s opioid-addict father with an uneasy demeanor. Beth Grant and Tom Bower play Elliot’s parents with a flinty and wary exterior. Elliot finally lets his guard down, and Jackie is on the verge of tears. During this get together, emotions are stirring, the stakes are high, and the outcome is excitingly unclear.
In the entirety of this sequence, personal feelings and half-assed apologies are declared, and the result is both modestly funny and revealing. Then again, the ending needed to wholly embrace its bleaker undertones to bring the film home. But the build-up falters due to its 74-minute runtime, and what I can only presume is Leonard’s reluctance to stretch the scene out longer.
Fully Realized Humans Is A Genuinely Funny, Screwy, and Candid Take On Parenthood
Anchored by Joshua Leonard and Jess Weixler’s infectious chemistry and offbeat script — which certainly has to do with how comfortable they are with working together — Fully Realized Humans inherits enough wit and veracity to make it a gently realized journey worth embarking on for the unexpected laughs and bizarre appeal. With Fully Realized Humans, Joshua Leonard has proven that he harnesses a gift to unveil truths about parenthood and self-image in an interestingly impure, or simply eccentric manner.
In four weeks, Jackie and Elliot will be parents. So what do Elliot and Jackie do to become “fully realized humans”, and before they can morph into “fully realized parents”? They contemplate their relationship and their identity to figure out what pieces of the puzzle still need to be pieced together. After considering every piece that needs to be assembled, will it ever be complete? Will Jackie and Elliot ever be “fully realized”? Will any of us be?
Have you seen Fully Realized Humans? If not, are you interested in seeing it now? Let us know in the comments!
Fully Realized Humans was scheduled to screen at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. The release date & trailer is unavailable at this time.
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