Leah McKendrick Gets ‘Scrambled’ In Her Zesty Comedy About Adulting Pressures

Time is catching up fast with the millennials. Despite being the progressive precursor to Gen Z, a large portion of the first generation to grow up with the internet is moving quickly through their thirties. This is bringing whole new anxieties that are bitingly laughed at in “Scrambled.” Leah McKendrick writes, directs and stars in this quirky comedy that will feel like a tonic and wound-twister for anyone watching who was born between 1981 and the mid-90s. Sometimes, nothing can prepare us for the real world and adulting can indeed be very real. McKendrick is pitch perfect as a walking portrait of a particular kind of millennial that still feels like a kid while facing the pressures of life’s pesky expectations.

There is a fresh honesty to McKendrick’s screenplay. She plays Nellie, a 34-year-old living in California who designs jewelry to sell on Etsy. All around her, friends seem to be settling into adulthood, which tends to be solidified with weddings. Nellie is the eternal bridesmaid who offers support to besties, like Sheila (Ego Nwodim), when they need pep talks and drugs. At home, Nellie’s father, Richard (Clancy Brown), interrogates her about not having kids. Her mother (Laura Cerón) is less pushy, and her older brother, Jesse (Andrew Santino), is rich and a business bro, who can bask at being eternally immature. When it hits Nellie that time is running out on her fertility, she starts going on a journey to either find a mate or freeze her eggs.

“Scrambled” is not a preachy film about finding the right path in life. It never seeks to judge Nellie for her choices. McKendrick’s tone is joyfully quirky, like an assurance that no one has the right answers. Some people just never truly gave having children a thought, so why go through all the mental anxiety? The subtext is that it’s really all just a manifestation of deeper fears of time slipping away, especially for a generation known to be late bloomers. In particular economics just never let millennials as a whole jump on the same milestone bandwagons of the boomers and Gen X. Nellie is one of the outliers who didn’t settle and it’s rather brilliant how mannerisms and wardrobe choices differentiate her from friends who have that air of the good college student, now living in the right suburban house. They probably studied finance while Nellie just always did her own thing. The dialogue crackles with funny intergenerational jabs (“I don’t even know if I want kids! I’ve seen ‘Euphoria’!”). 

Nellie’s journey towards freezing her eggs has some hilarious pit stops involving the current dating scene, which is littered with odd blind dates and people from the past who have come out damaged. There’s the “nice guy” who suddenly erupts because now that Nellie is “dried up,” she’s finally giving him attention. A former co-worker who just wanted to hook up in the past meets her for drinks, announces he’s engaged and so the meeting suddenly has even less reason for being. Like many excellent slice of life scripts, McKendrick focuses on making the dialogue and characters the center. Everyone has an answer for Nellie, with the usual slogans about waiting for the right person who will drop in the moment you stop looking. A friend’s baby shower is so corny it borders on pure farce. Nellie’s childhood room is preserved like a memory cave for millennials, with posters of Britney Spears, like a safe space everyone wishes they could go back into.

“Scrambled” doesn’t run to a big answer. It wants to assure us that there’s nothing to be afraid of at the twilight of one’s 30s, and especially for women, the old social pressures are what should catch up. Even your friend who is so excited about their wedding is drowning in their own anxieties behind closed doors. If Nellie decides she indeed wants to get pregnant, great, if not, why is it a problem to sell her creations on Etsy and carry on? A baby shower will not automatically fill every life void. Maybe it is more fun to be the wedding guest doing “Charlie’s Angels” poses near the cake. McKendrick doesn’t play the role like a hero, but with the zest of an everyday person suddenly freaking out when the life clock gets louder. Congrats to those who got the right degrees, but in general we all have to somehow live.

Scrambled” releases Feb. 2 in theaters nationwide.