Thursday, July 25, 2013

Girl Most Likely

Girl Most Likely opens with a point of view sequence charting its leading character through her seemingly enchanted and very posh Manhattan lifestyle.  On her way to some highbrow event, even whilst not showing her face until nearly the end of a lengthy title sequence, she already appears prickly.  At the end, a reflection-- it's that of Kristin Wiig, the gifted actress and extraordinary comedienne, the very same who turned a thousand undercooked sketches on Saturday Night Live and spun them into a wealth of comedic opportunities because of her unexpected timing and naturalistic go-with-it charm, the same who turned the uproarious Bridesmaids into that rare comedy that tapped into such a rarefied and wondrous exploration for feminine angst and rage.  Over the years, Wiig has deservedly earned our attention because of adept will at mining character within caricature, cultivating a strong sense of warmth, compassion and independent verve that's disarming as it is funny.  The first misstep in the sloppy and clunky Girl Most Likely is that Wiig's character, Imogene, is introduced as nothing more than a vanity object for a man.  It all starts out being about a boy.

Imogene is a promising playwright, or was once, having drifted past the stage in life where promising is still a complement, after giving it up for the uptown man of her elitist dreams.  After he goes astray and she loses her job, things start to become desperate for Imogene.  The only possible answer: to stage her own suicide so that her knight and shining armor will realize the error of his ways and the two will live out the rest of the their lives in wondrous harmony.  Girl Most Likely posits itself as a comedy, but there's little humor, merely strange and disparately connected asides.  It plays a lot like its main character-- desperate to be loved, but too lazy to put in the proper work to earn it.  Naturally, Imogene's grand scheme backfires and the pills she swallows put her back in the care of what she most strove to leave behind-- her mother.  Annette Bening plays Zelda, Imogene's Jersey mother, an impulsive hot bed of actorly tics rolled into tacky outfits.

Forced to be released into the care of family (her beloved nowhere to be seen) in the boardwalk adjacent sitcom hall of mirrors that was once her childhood, Imogene's contempt could tare down the walls.  The problem, outside the forced antics that Girl Most Likely shovels down our throats alongside the garish accoutrements that must have been fun for the production design team, is that the film never quite gives us enough of an answer to explain her prickliness.  Her family is odd, but loving, strange, but functional, even for the dynamics of programmed indie film quirkiness.  A long past secret surfaces that changes the course for Imogene, and, well, alas, it's again all about a boy.

There's another boy to distract as well in the form of Zelda's new boarder-- a young and bland cutie named Lee (Glee's Darren Criss), who's rented out Imogene's former room to boot.  As well as Zelda's live in boyfriend, an alleged CIA man nicknamed "The Bousche" (Matt Dillon), and Imogene's sea-life obsessed savant younger brother Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald); the point of the which seems to be that all of these characters are pretty much in their own movies; the problem for screenwriter Michelle Morgan and directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini is that neither are particularly interesting in their own right, just a collection of absurd tics in the hopeful guise of band-aiding a slipshod narrative.  What else can be described from plot point based on Lee's career choice as front man in a Backstreet Boys tribute band, or Ralph's invention of human which you will hardly believe what comes out of that plot development.

There's a moment inside a scene of such absurdity where Girl Most Likely hits something close to what it may have been given the talent assembled.  Imogene gets her face painted by a boardwalk glitter kiosk girl, whose inspired to give her a fabulous look that expresses who she really is on the inside of her soul.  It's a hokey and overly-extended item that segues into the niftiest, sad and silly spirit of a project that clearly needed more excessive fine-tooling before the filming process.  In any way-- the punchline is that her fabulous glittery makeover is the form of small teardrops aside her cheek.  A better, more generous comedy of manner would have carried that touchstone more authentically throughout the entire film...a film not unlike Wiig's own Bridesmaids, which expertly matched the silly and the bitter in a nearly beautiful tandem.

The worst offense Girl Most Likely commits, aside from being a near wash from directors Springer Berman and Pulcini, who ten years ago delighted and illuminated with the incredibly inventive and ingeniously crafted human comedy-tragedy American Splendor, is the waste of both Wiig and Bening.  Both are sidelined throughout the film mostly because of the action and inaction of the boys in their lives, a shame and waste for talents that have long broken away from stand-by-your-man objectives.  The mother-daughter story is barely even touched upon, a waste for two performers who are have such preternatural talents into fusing real life comedy and drama from over-the-top mania.  Girl Most Likely will be forgotten.  D+

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