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Bisexual comedy that's actually a 'nail-biting thriller' was inspired by director's experiences as sugar baby

Bisexual comedy that's actually a 'nail-biting thriller' was inspired by director's experiences as sugar baby

Director Emma Seligman had an account with SeekingArrangement

A comedy about a bisexual twenty-something described as ‘a nail-biting thriller’ and ‘a horror movie’ was partly inspired by the director’s experiences as a sugar baby.

The 2020 film - which we’re revisiting as part of a series for Pride month - follows Danielle (Bottoms’ Rachel Sennott), who heads straight from a hookup with her sugar daddy to a shiva, a post-funeral get-together in Jewish culture.

Danielle is already a nervous wreck as friends and relatives come at her from all angles to criticize her for not eating enough, not paying rent, and not making any real progress in the world of work.

Rachel Sennott stars in the 'nail-biting thriller' (Utopia)
Rachel Sennott stars in the 'nail-biting thriller' (Utopia)

Then she comes face to face with her ex Maya (Molly Gordon), all the more awkward considering she’s not come out as bisexual to her extended family.

And then, to top it all off, her sugar daddy (Danny Deferrari) turns up with his wife and baby in tow.

Ostensibly a comedy, the music and the way Shiva Baby is shot is more like a horror movie, and if it was anyone longer than its slight 1hr 17min runtime, some viewers might actually have a heart attack.

Sennott says she and Seligman spoke about how the film was ‘about how being a young woman is a horror movie’.

She told Dazed: “Danielle’s the only one in the horror movie. She’s like, ‘I’M FREAKING OUT!!! HELP!!!’ and everyone else is like, ‘These bagels taste weird.’”

One reason the film feels like a gut punch is that director Emma Seligman, 28, not only had many of the same anxieties as Danielle, but also flirted with sugaring.

Seligman signed up to SeekingArrangement, and like Danielle, she wasn’t motivated by financial need.

She told Dazed: “I was attracted to the appeal of power, even though there wasn’t much there when I was in it, and validation, which was there.”

Shiva Baby's director was also a sugar baby (Utopia)
Shiva Baby's director was also a sugar baby (Utopia)

Going into more detail with BFI, she said: “Hookup culture in college feels so dehumanizing, random and out of your control.

“You don’t know if the person you want to be dating is going to want to see you this week or next month or not ever again.

“Whether it’s a good thing or not, the idea of a sugar baby-sugar daddy relationship seems like a setup where you know you’re going to be validated, weekly or monthly or whatever the situation is.”

Seligman wasn’t alone as many of her friends were sugar babies too, but she ultimately found she couldn’t do it.

She told the BFI: “I had an account for a long time, but I only ever went on one date and was quickly like, “I can’t do this.”

Based on the stomach-turning dread she’s siphoned into Shiva Baby, it’s probably for the best Seligman left sugaring behind.

Shiva Baby is available to watch on HBO Max.

Featured Image Credit: Utopia

Topics: LGBTQ, Horror, Film and TV