Comedy Scrambled eggs on laughs in story of female mid-life crisis
Movies about women going through the process of pregnancy or struggling with infertility are relatively common, with all sorts of permutations on that theme. Likewise, there are a good number of films about women in their 30s who struggle as they see their friends getting married and having babies, knowing that their own biological clock is ticking.
Writer/director/actor Leah McKendrick puts her own spin on both stories in Scrambled. McKendrick stars as Nellie, a 34-year-old who’s spinning her wheels as a middling Etsy seller with a recently failed relationship and still somewhat dependent on her parents (Clancy Brown and Laura Cerón). When her best friend Sheila (Ego Nwodim) gets married and pregnant in short order, Nellie has a crisis of confidence.
She’s not sure she ever wants to have children, but her doctor advises her to freeze her eggs just in case. With extra pressure coming from her dad and a seemingly never-ending parade of happy couples, she also starts contacting men she used to date to see if sparks might fly. The combination of her mid-life crisis and the hormones she’s taking for the egg retrieval puts Nellie in a spiral that appears to be inescapable.
McKendrick, making her feature directorial debut, turns in a very effective comedy, as the journey of Nellie is funny, relatable, and heartbreaking at the same time. Through an economy of storytelling, she establishes exactly who Nellie is and wants to be, along with the various other people in her life. Friends and family in these types of films can often be present just for the sake of having other people, but McKendrick gives most of them a three-dimensionality, even those that only show up for a scene or two.
This ability is especially evident in the series of men she goes out with. Ranging from a wedding bartender to an old high school flame to a guy she met at Trader Joe’s who wears an ankle monitor, each is given a mini-showcase that elicits some kind of emotional reaction. Most of them are there to be funny, but they all serve as a type of stepping stone toward Nellie coming to terms with where she is in her life.
Although it is definitely a comedy for most of its running time, the film tilts toward dramatic in its final act without a hitch. It’s able to do so because of the time McKendrick spent in establishing various relationships throughout the film. When Nellie has heartfelt moments with her dad, Sheila, and her neighbor Parveen (Vee Kumari), they feel completely earned instead of forced.
McKendrick has had a steady-if-unremarkable career to this point, with her most well-known credit being a small role in Bad Moms in 2016. In getting a chance to tell a story herself, McKendrick proves herself both a great filmmaker and actress. She makes herself vulnerable in many ways, resulting in a very funny and rewarding experience. She also shows she knows how to cast well, as almost every role is filled by someone who boosts the story in some way.
Scrambled is a pleasant surprise for this early in the year, when films aren’t typically expected to be of this quality. Talented female filmmakers are getting increasing opportunities to show their worth in recent years, and McKendrick made the most of her chance, delivering a memorable film that works on many levels.
Scrambled is now playing in theaters.