Review: Girl Most Likely (2012)
Editor’s Note: Girl Most Likely is now in wide release.
The chick flick label is pretty messed up. I get it, films with ladies doing lady things isn’t every guy’s cup of tea. Masculinity must be maintained and thus copious boobs and huge explosions are necessary for the male member to find tumescence. In the same way, this label’s relevancy is questionable. Besides the dreck that Katherine Heigl gets paid to star in, the modern female centric film at least attempts at increased complexity. Out of a field of unlikable stereotypes women are getting a better shot at putting forth characters that are not sidled to men or predisposed to hysterics. Therefore, it is somewhat odd that Kristen Wiig who co-wrote and starred in a film that carries this Bechdel test passing flag now stars in Girl Most Likely: a dysfunctional and doomed marriage of the female films of future and past.
A slow start and an unbelievable ending overshadow a nearly good middle, making Girl Most Likely a fully mediocre experience.
Imogene (Wiig) was living large in New York City. After receiving acclaim as a playwright, she won a grant to produce her next work. Unfortunately writer’s block led to a series of distractions that plunged her deep into the world of New York City aristocracy. As quickly as things came together they begin to fall apart as her boyfriend deems their relationship dead and the loyalty of her “friends” reveals its falsity. In an attempt to win back her boyfriend she stages a suicide attempt that only ends up landing her in the psychiatric wing of the hospital. Deemed a danger to herself she is placed in the care of her mother Zelda (Annette Bening), a gambling obsessed former go-go dancer. Taken home to New Jersey, Imogene is now in a place she never wanted to return to with people she has no desire to be with. In this environment she must attempt to put her life back together.
The film has an altogether messy and unexceptional start with the first 45 minutes of the film being pretty terrible. The beginning is sleepily written and its intentions suspect. Starting with a scene of Imogene as a child precociously deriding the absurdity of The Wizard of Oz’s ending is certainly a…choice. The scene isn’t funny and as the film moves to Imogene as an adult is utterly disconnected. My initial annoyance with its inclusion was quickly clouded by the inescapably loathsome New York-set scenes. Imogene is hopelessly shackled to a boyfriend that is clearly over her in a world that doesn’t want her either. She harbors this need to be appreciated by the New York money that surrounds her. There is no individuality and even the blonde Stepford wives that accompany her are more palatable. It’s all just too much. The New York characters are too broadly played and grossly unlikable to be considered actual humans. The inherent sadness of Imogene’s need for approval is depressingly derivative. The suicide attempt as a device to move the plot forward is emotionally vacuous and insensitively blind to its lack of humor.
When Imogene returns home the decision to fill the film with shallow characters continues. Not even Annette Bening is able to lift the mother character out of its secondhand descriptors of quirky and less than adequate parent. Her lover George Bousche, played by Matt Dillon, is a role that is better suited to his brother Kevin and isn’t able to rile more than the rare titter. The most enjoyable performances come from Darren Criss and Christopher Fitzgerald. Criss’s charm as Lee overcomes the foghorn that announces his introduction as a love interest for Imogene. The character harbors an actual personality that isn’t merely cribbed from the same generic hamper as his compatriots’; not to mention acting as a conduit through which the year’s second Backstreet Boys “Everybody” reference could come to fruition; they certainly are back, (I apologize for this, sincerely, but it has to be done) all right. As younger brother Ralph, Fitzgerald conveys an undaunted innocence that masquerades as dim-wittedness. The scenes with Ralph are the most emotionally honest and serve as the film’s most consistent source for worthwhile comedy. Ralph and Lee are what allow Imogene to appear as more human. They are unabashedly true to themselves and have hearts big enough to carry the soulless proceedings.
There came a point when I thought to myself with surprise that I was just starting to enjoy the film. The Wizard of Oz opening began to make sense with a message that heralds the importance of family and a later revelation that draws similarities to the man behind the curtain scene. And what is this? Actual full bodied laughter? Well color me surprised. This ending may just be enough to save the film’s middling beginning. Alas, it was all for naught. There is a twist in Bousche’s CIA back-story that comes out of nowhere to nut slap you out of your haze of enjoyment. It is ridiculous, stupid and results in anything but earned resolution, a drunken deus ex machina. If that were not enough, directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini tack on a coda that just furthers the film’s descent into idiocy. Its attempt at a celebratory and altogether happy ending is like attending a party for a person you aren’t crazy about. Oh, Richard just got a big promotion? That’s great. Where’s the bar?
Girl Most Likely is a dysfunctional and doomed marriage of the female films of future and past.
Imogene, a female character with an inability to establish her own existence past that of her significant other, dooms the film to an uphill trudge on par with Sisyphus. It is fated to return to the slum of the ordinary and at its best Girl Most Likely is unspectacularly passable. Kristen Wiig is serviceable as Imogene, a character that is fairly hollow and nearly unbearable. It’s hard to fault her, since the weak script has most of the actors just going through the motions. Many characters are parodic in their broadness. Darren Criss and Christopher Fitzgerald show strength in their ability to make their characters feel developed. Fitzgerald in particular offers up the biggest emotional gateway and most opportunities for laughter. Sure, I laughed at parts but I never really cared about anyone involved. A slow start and an unbelievable ending, hampered by lazy character development, overshadow a nearly good middle, making Girl Most Likely a fully mediocre experience.