I had a tough time with this film. I obviously don't mean that in a bad way, considering the number of stars I thought it deserved, but it was a hard one to ponder about - or write about at the start. The first half of the film caused some mixed feelings for sure. "SPECIALish" seemed almost like a really long promotion for Jessica herself. As Dan said, in the film, "SPECIALish" felt like Jessica's claim to fifteen minutes of fame. A crutch to prop up her career. Yet, for any hint of truth to my ballsy statement, there really is a lot more to this film than that - and quickly, that infomercial feeling faded away like so many towns at Jessica's back. What is the actual message here? I'll get into that below - but the truth is that it may be a little different for anyone watching. Or, perhaps there's not really a true message at all - and "SPECIALish" is just one of those movies that manage to entertain, for no other reason but to do so. The keyword here? Entertain. Jessica Watkin's baby has no problem doing that. No problem at all.
The premise is simple. Jessica, a stand-up comedian, wants to walk across America. Along the way, she'll perform where she can but really, the walking thing is what the film is all about. At first anyhow. The big trek is not as uncommon as many people may think, including me. On Jessica's journey we meet, or get told about, others that are making the trip - or have made it - but it seems the long walk is attempted, or completed quite a bit. I don't mean it's common like... going for a beer after work, but it's definitely not unheard of. I can dig it, and I imagine the discovery of one's true self is a top contender for the why aspect - inspiration would probably quickly follow suit. The amount of willpower to actually do it, however, is far more than I could muster. To film it all along the way is another beast altogether.
What I really liked about this film were some of the interesting points made along the way. A great example would be the revelations about social media acting as a locking mechanism for life - that was a nice touch. Something that technically, is no revelation at all... and yet hearing someone actually say it was quite refreshing. Funny thing though, "SPECIALish" ends up not being specific about the walk itself, or Jessica's career, but a movie about self-discovery - and not just for Jessica. What was learned along the way, things that matter, and things that don't. A phrase Jessica uses quite often is, "I was OK with it" takes on a much bigger meaning, when put in context with the film - or even life in general. Her trip was about her, but watching it made me wonder about myself. How would my outlook change if I walked the distance? How would my life change with so much time to self inspect? At the start of this review I wrote that at first, this film felt like a promotion - a tool to help Jessica with her career. By the end of it, however, I found myself thinking more about my own life, choices, and goals. Funny how that works.
The amount of footage the editor of this film probably had to sift through is mind-boggling, and even more spectacular was the end results. This is a documentary, no question... but it flows so nicely and effortlessly, that getting into this film took no conscious thought at all. Also, for me, the turnaround of how I perceived this film is probably due to the edit as well. Splendid job.
With very little, but heartfelt fanfare upon the completion of Jessica's journey, I was left with pleasant questions. What happened next for her? Guess I'll have to visit her Facebook page or Google. So much was hinted at - but left unsaid in the film, I want to know! But more importantly... there were also questions about myself. You see reader, that's what this film did for me. It started out making sure I knew this was Jessica's story - this was her fifteen minutes. Somewhere along the way however, things changed a little, I started thinking about me. Is that selfish? Considering all the work, time, and walking that went into this movie? Perhaps it is, but it's also what made this film so endearing. It takes a great movie to shift focus from what happens onscreen, to the contents of a viewer's own life. In my books, "SPECIALish" easily earns its four stars. Perhaps, for some, a bit more.