Join standup comic Jessica Watkins on an inspiring journey in the indie documentary “SPECIALish.”
Are you searching for an After Coronavirus reset? Standup comic Jessica Watkins has a story for you. Many people walk across America to raise money for a cause. In the documentary “SPECIALish,” standup comedian Jessica Watkins aims to ignite her career by spending eight months pushing a stroller filled with camping gear and walking across America.
Taking approximately eight months to walk across America can be dangerous. It requires strengthening and training, but Watkins embraces the Nike tagline and sets out to “Do It” with daily hiking goals between ten and twenty miles. She practices standup routines at various open mic nights along the way.
Watkins, one of the more likable documentary subjects in recent memory, faces the camera throughout the movie for daily updates. She meets colorful characters along the way, sharing Mason jars filled with booze. Severe pain in her left knee looks to delay her adventure. Watkins also takes a side trip to see family in Nashville. She shares rainstorm confessional from inside her tent and philosophical musing while sitting in a cemetery. Each day on the walk generates new material and standup opportunities in front of different audiences. Some nights are awful, but Watkins steadily builds her act, and the jokes become funnier.
Watkins’ movie is as much digital journaling as documentary filmmaking with low-fi camerawork and stream of conscious editing. It’s meta moviemaking with scenes of self-reflection and self-discovery. With “SPECIALish,” Watkins joins a genre of self-reflection documentaries from Ross McElwee’s “Sherman’s March” (1985) to Michael Moore movies, including “Roger & Me” (1989).
Moore is a good reference point for Watkins. They are both approachable, funny, and likable. Watkins comes off as the funny woman in the apartment down the hall trying to break into standup. You want her to succeed. You’re happy to join her on the journey. After watching her cross-country hike in the movie, you’re pulling for her all the way.
As the film wraps and Watkins dances in the surf of the Pacific Ocean, “SPECIALish” leads to the big question. Has Watkins established her brand as a standup comic? Has she lifted awareness around her work? That may depend on audiences streaming the movie, but if you discover this indie doc, I think you’ll say ‘yes.’ It may even inspire your creative reset.
“SPECIALish” is available on TVOD platforms.
Director: Jessica Watkins
Production: Glass House Productions
Editor: Christine Simon
Cast: Jessica Watkins
Distributer: Random Media
Air Date: May 11, 2021
Behind the Curtain: Jessica Watkins claims added indie cred as the associate producer of the 2010 stoner comedy “Bad Batch.’