Thursday, July 18, 2013

Girl Most Likely (2013)


I enjoy a good New Jersey joke as much as the next guy but Girl Most Likely seems to have it in for that state.  Naturally, all the Manhattanites roll their eyes at their lesser, southern neighbor, but they also mention it off-hand as the main character’s real home, as if she if someone different from them, not only in social standing, but in her actual stature as a human being.  Also, the vast majority of the Jersey characters are caricatures and cartoons of what people think of when they imagine the Jersey Shore.  Girl Most Likely uses New Jersey’s stereotypes for comedic purposes and keeps on swinging away at it until it brushes up against the line separating funny from mean.

Imogene (Kristen Wiig) is our Jersey girl and her life's goal is to see New Jersey in the rearview mirror.  In an early scene playing Dorothy in a Wizard of Oz school play, she asks to rewrite the ending because there is no way Dorothy would go back to Kansas after seeing everything Oz has to offer.  The allure of high society New York City is Imogene’s Oz.  Unfortunately, Imogene was born without a trust fund and Upper East Side connections; she must work to gain acceptance the hard way.

Branded an up-and-coming playwright, Imogene was on the fast track to break through the complicated social strata layers; however, she partied away all her chances to succeed professionally, developed a mooch reputation with the true blue blood Manhattan heirs, lost her suave boyfriend, lost her menial hack-writer’s job, and lost her spacious apartment.  Forced to crawl back to Jersey (Kansas) with her tail between her legs and move back into her childhood home is the absolute worst punishment for Imogene’s reckless ways.  Imogene imagines herself as a confident, Sex and the City type, independent woman.  Cynthia Nixon even shows up in an early cameo.  To her downward-spiraling and psyche-shattering dismay, Imogene learns she is actually more of a Snooki than a Samantha. 

Imogene’s mom, Zelda (Annette Bening), is a gambling-addicted, self-absorbed ‘free spirit’ and Imogene’s brother, Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald), is an introverted somewhat developmentally-disabled homebody obsessed with mollusks and self-protection.  The two interlopers Imogene discovers at home are mom’s new boyfriend, George Boosh aka The Boosh (Matt Dillon), who tells way too many people he is a covert CIA spy to actually be a spy, and a boarder renting out Imogene’s old room, Lee (Darren Criss), who is set up as a possible romantic match even though they are separated noticeably in age and attitude.  Dillon plays The Bosche almost the same as he did his There’s Something About Mary (1998) character and Fitzgerald channels a less-obnoxious Hangover-series Zach Galifianakis to portray Ralph.    

Eccentric and oddball supporting characters so saturate Girl Most Likely they just cancel each other out after a while.  The New Jersey natives say or do something so often considered outrageous by stuck-up Imogene that instead of laugh-out-loud comedy, we get groan-inducing clich√©.  Co-directors and real-life married couple Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (American Splendor, 2003, The Nanny Diaries, 2007) crowd the Atlantic City boardwalk and casinos with brief but numerous shots of denim-clad, obese, Bon Jovi-listening rubes.  Writer Michelle Morgan (Middle of Nowhere, 2008) tried to write a funny, city girl comes back to the farm story, but produced a script as uncomfortable as when Charlize Theron came back home in Young Adult (2011), but not nearly as effective as that.

This film was shot immediately after Bridesmaids (2011) was released which catapulted Wiig to stardom.  Girl Most Likely does not overtly attempt to ride that movie’s coattails, but it tries to use a similar awkward comedy style.  Imogene is also much more unlikeable than Wiig’s Annie character from Bridesmaids.  Here is a girl who threw away a $30,000 grant on parties and vacations instead of pursuing her gift as a writer.  The audience is supposed to feel sympathy for her as she loses her feet from under her, yet I just felt these are the inevitable consequences of free-riding. 

The moral of the story is either 1) You can take the girl out of New Jersey but you can’t take New Jersey out of the girl or 2) New Jersey and its wacky inhabitants are really the salt of the Earth compared the haute couture Manhattan phonies – take your pick. Either way, we are still waiting for the follow-up Bridesmaids role for Kristen Wiig that will show us leaving Saturday Night Live was a good idea.               

Directed by: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Written by: Michelle Morgan
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Matt Dillon, Darren Criss, Christopher Fitzgerald, June Diane Raphael, Natasha Lyonne, Bob Balaban, Mickey Sumner, Brian Petsos

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