Lena Dunham had “Girls.” Amy Schumer had “Trainwreck.” And now, Leah McKendrick has “Scrambled.” The filmmaker and star behind the dramedy “Scrambled” shines in this coming-of-age fertility saga, which chronicles an aimless 34-year-old who decides to freeze her eggs amid the onslaught of weddings, bridal showers, and babies her peers are suddenly throwing.
The film follows Los Angeles native Nellie (McKendrick), whose best friend Sheila (“Saturday Night Live” standout Ego Nwodim) is getting married. Gone are their days of doing coke together and partying without consequence: Sheila is pregnant and tying the knot, while Nellie gets stuck rolling on ecstasy by herself at the reception.
That’s where she crosses paths with her friend group idol Monroe (June Diane Raphael) who informs Nellie that becoming a mother at age 40 was the most painful experience of her life. With over $50,000 sunk into IVF to produce daughter Zophia (yes, with a Z), Monroe warns Nellie that her thirties are not to be wasted and she needs to plan ahead for every possible future she may want later.
But that’s not what Nellie needs to hear right now. She’s an Etsy jewelry seller who’s newly single and still hooks up with hot bartenders who have “Scarface” and/or “Reservoir Dogs” posters in their bedrooms. “I don’t even know if I want kids,” Nellie cries. “I’ve seen ‘Euphoria’!” As Nellie’s parents, played by Clancy Brown and Laura Cerón, pressure her to start a family by gifting her “motivational” baby shoes, she wonders what the harm is in “buying more time” for her fertility journey. Well, the price tag is one thing.
Nellie begs to borrow cash from her brother (Andrew Santino) and eventually starts the painful and emotional process of freezing her eggs. She’s not allowed to drink or have sex, but Nellie’s baby-making journey has officially begun as she embarks on a “What’s Your Number?” jaunt down memory lane. Nellie finds herself wearing her prom dress to a bar in the Valley and hooking up with her prom king ex-boyfriend (Sterling Sulieman) in a last hurrah to singlehood sans eggs in a freezer. Later, a hilarious encounter with a “Peter Pan” ex (Adam Rodriguez) reminds Nellie why she wasn’t wrong in breaking up with these guys in the first place.
But everything seems to fall apart when the girlfriend of Nellie’s one true love and most recent ex Shawn (Harry Shum Jr.) gets pregnant, and Nellie wonders if the clock has run out already before she could buy the time she needed. From miscarriages to a reproductive loss therapy group to the mention of a past abortion, “Scrambled” covers the reproductive plights of womanhood in a darkly comedic and utterly relatable way.
At times, “Scrambled” feels like a TV show, which isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s a compliment: the film has quick quips, good timing, and tight pacing mostly found in nowadays in episodic structures. When Nellie writes a letter to her 20 frozen eggs saying that she’s proud of “us” and signs it as “Mom,” it’s the kind of pay-off that a six seasons and a movie cult favorite TV show would feel like.
“Scrambled” is a toast to McKendrick herself, who is among IndieWire’s top female filmmakers to watch this year. And get used to seeing her work: McKendrick is also writing the script for the upcoming “I Know What You Did Last Summer” film directed by “Do Revenge” breakout Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, plus penning “Grease” prequel “Summer Lovin.’” The high concept IP projects in the works only proves that Hollywood has finally caught up with McKendrick.
As for “Scrambled,” here’s a fair warning: “Scrambled” will make you text your ex — or former Hinge hookup with a “hey stranger” — but in the end, you’ll feel confident knowing your best self is still just dancing on your own. Here’s to that.
“Scrambled” premiered at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.