Review: SCRAMBLED A Strong Feature Debut For Writer/Director/Star Leah McKendrick

Scrambled Leah McKendrick
Image via Lionsgate

Leah McKendrick’s freshman feature film, Scrambled, is the culmination of her work as an actress who has developed a number of short films and a webseries, and marks her as a newly-minted triple threat – star/director/writer in this case – to keep an eye on. At various times funny and poignant, Scrambled is the story of a Millennial woman in her mid-30s suddenly realizing that she is the last single standing among her peer group. Caught between her single status, her father’s ever increasing demands for grandchildren and some friends horror stories about bringing up babies, Nellie decides to put any decisions about her future on hold, literally, by freezing her eggs.

Nellie is a woman who is still stuck in her twenty-something party girl phase, and not at all upset with her “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” status. After a heart-to-heart with a friend at one such wedding reception, she begins to think that being in her thirties is “just the 20s but with money,” might not be exactly that. Especially when her designer-jewelry Etsy business barely allows her to scratch out a living. But then again, she has never had much in the way of maternal instincts. As she states when explaining to someone that she doesn’t want kids, “I’ve seen Euphoria!” But in the face of her father’s pressure for progeny, despite the fact that her older brother’s own single status remains unchallenged, and a string of dates with past boyfriends to determine if “the One” slipped by her, Nellie soon realizes that maybe there is no quick solution to changing the trajectory of her life.

Image via Lionsgate

Scrambled is a comedic and well-observed examination of the societal pressures that women can be subjected to when it comes to “settling down” with a husband and starting a family. It is not a life path suited for everyone, and it is certainly nothing that Nellie has seriously contemplated for herself. I don’t know how true this story may be to McKendrick’s personal experiences, but there is enough universality here that echoes through conversations I have had with female friends who were in their thirties and were living lives that did not necessarily match up with societal or familial expectations of them. In some ways Scrambled feels like a mirror of director Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child, in which Jenny Slate plays a woman who contemplates an abortion after a one night stand.

As we see Nellie’s maturation, the film does lose a bit of its comic edge, but that’s fine. This is a story that doesn’t need to build to a giant comedy crescendo of zany action. The laughs come from her journey through a series of doctor’s visits, baby showers and other events where she is forced to examine her life choices. But whether or not this film is drawn from personal experiences or elsewhere, McKendrick has found a story not often told in film and delivered on both its humor and humanity. It’s not really a rom-com. The pursuit of one specific love is not the point here, but the pursuit of happiness is, as Nellie attempts to ultimately find what will make her happy in life. And that makes the film feel universal, no matter where one is in their own life.

Image via Lionsgate
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About Rich Drees 7180 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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