Review by Jonathan Berk
Leah McKendrick makes her directorial debut with Scrambled, which she also wrote and stars in. McKendrick plays Nellie, who continuously finds herself attending friends' weddings and baby showers between several bad dates. Through these experiences and pressure from her father (Clancy Brown), Nellie starts to worry that her biological clock is ticking into oblivion and decides to freeze her eggs.
McKendrick was in several films before this performance. If she'd been politely knocking at Hollywood's door before — she's now kicked it in, demanding to be paid attention. The opening sequence starts with her as a maid of honor about to enter the wedding reception. She's trying to convince the best man what dance they should enter with, and it becomes clear this is not her first entrance. We get such a sense of her character in these opening moments that it perfectly sets up the journey Nellie is about to undergo.
It is not always easy to balance the drama and comedy in a film like this. McKendrick navigates that with the confidence of someone who walked the path many times before. Despite it being her debut, it's clear she's done her homework. There are some big laughs in this film, and then some deep emotions. Late in the movie, McKendrick gets to give the big "breakdown" monologue and nails it — both in the performance and the scene's set-up.
McKendrick plays on many tropes of romantic comedies but finds some new uses for the form. There is a montage-type sequence where Nellie attempts to revisit her past flings, which feels a little like the plot of High Fidelity. While it feels familiar in many ways, how it is presented and edited feels uniquely stylized to this film. This feeling is also depicted in many of Nellie's relationships with her friends and family. They frequently fit archetypes of the genre, but they manage to only hover around the cliches, often subverting the audience's expectations. In this way, Scrambled manages to feel both fresh and familiar.
Scrambled immediately reveals itself for what it is, and it may take the audience a few moments to sync on its wavelength. However, once the audience gets what McKendrick is putting down, it's hard not to fall in love with the movie. It is often said that the more specific a story is, the more universal it feels. This film feels unbelievably personal, and McKendrick's performance is so vulnerable that it's hard not to connect with it. The fear of getting older and living up to the expectations of our friends, family, and society is very real.
Scrambled will be in theaters on February 2.