*Sigh* I really, really wanted to like Kristin Wiig’s movie, Girl Most Likely. The trailer looked promising and the film boasted a cast that I thought could do something interesting. The actors do what they can with the material, but whoever wrote this film let them all down. There isn’t a real comprehensive story here, rather there are a collection of half-baked sketches that don’t totally fit together or create a complete picture. When Kristin Wiig is playing the straight person to almost everyone else in the film, you know that you are in trouble.
Girl Most Likely started off with a somewhat promising, if slightly trite, premise: After losing her job and being dumped by her boyfriend Peter (Brian Petsos), failed playwright Imogene (Wiig) takes drastic action to try to win him back resulting in her being forced to flee her beloved NYC to Oceanside, New Jersey in the custody of her wacky family that she was trying to escape from. Imogene and her eccentric mother Zelda (Annette Bening) do not have the best of relationships and while she gets along with her brother Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald), he is more interested in crabs than in actual people and has never left the confines of Ocean City. Her childhood bedroom has been rented out to singer Lee (Darren Criss) and her mother is dating alleged undercover CIA agent George Bousche (Matt Dillon). I’m assuming hilarity was supposed to ensue, but it never really does.
The biggest issue I had with Girl Most Likely is that the writers were under the impression that if you just make the majority of the characters quirky just for the sake of being quirky, that would be enough to carry the movie. They would be wrong. A little bit of quirk can go a long way and the resulting characters are so cartoonish and ridiculous that none of them are the least bit sympathetic or believable. Their quirks totally define them; other than their peculiar behavior and way of seeing the world, there isn’t that much to them. At best they are a hodgepodge collection of eccentricities; at worst they are just weird for the sake of weird. I could have handled one or two offbeat characters, but when everyone is unique it makes no one unique. Throwing a bunch of odd behavior at the screen and hoping some of it sticks does not a movie make.
The irony is that Wiig, who has made a very successful career playing oddball characters, is asked to play it straight. That’s kind of like asking Michael Jordon to referee while everyone else plays basketball. Perhaps the idea was the Wiig would be playing against type, but the result is that the best comic tool at their disposal is left in the toolbox. It doesn’t help matters that Wiig’s character is a little whiny and unlikable; it’s hard to really root for her which I think is the anticipated reaction. Bening at least seemed to be having some fun with her gambling and trashy character, but they really had to give her more to work with. Bening is a great actress that can do both comedy and drama, but even she can’t make hay out of what could have been a very memorable character.
The film never quite figures out the right tone – I’m fairly certain that Girl Most Likely is supposed to be a comedy but it delves into some decidedly unfunny terrain. Now, films can vacillate between being dramatic and comedic, but it has to do both well for it to really work. Girl Most Likely is at least consistent in that it doesn’t handle either particularly well. It’s just too all over the place and has created such one dimensional characters that it is difficult to muster up much of any reaction to what was happening. I just didn’t care what happened to anyone.
The story that they are trying to tell suffers from being fragmented and disjointed. There are a lot of various plot points in the film, but none of them come together to tell a cohesive story. It’s like they had a bunch of skits that they liked and assumed that if they just threw them all together that was sufficient. The whole is never greater than the sum of its parts and even the parts aren’t that great to being with. Relying too heavily on the personality traits, even the small fragments that might have worked in a different movie are too half-baked to live up to their individual potential.
I like Kristin Wiig and Darren Criss separately, but I didn’t think that they had any real chemistry in their scenes together. I was a little mad at myself that their age difference bothered me; after all, men are paired with much younger women all the time in the movies and no one (including myself) gives it much thought. I’d hate to think that I’m part of a double standard. However, I think part of the problem is that I kept thinking of Criss’ character as being much younger than he is supposed to be, a possible residual side effect of watching him play a high school student on Glee. Had the actors had better rapport this might not have been an issue for me, but since I didn’t think that there were any sparks between them that just left me fixated on the age difference. It felt forced, weird and totally unbelievable.
Some other quick thoughts:
- Someone didn’t do much research, as they had people in New Jersey pumping their own gas. That is heresy in the Garden State.
- This is the third movie this summer that has had some boy band reference. I’m officially calling this a trend. Perhaps I retired too early from the whole boy band scene (update on that front: I turned down FREE tickets to see NKOTB, 98 degrees and Boys II Men as well as other offers to accompany friends to the show. My resolve remains strong.)
- All the people in NYC were so terrible that it was hard for you to root for Imogene to want to get back to that life. By comparison, her family in Jersey was nuts, but at least they were occasionally nice.
- Natasha Lyonne = completely squandered in this movie. She should have been given more to do or her character should have just been omitted. As it was, she added nothing.
- I didn’t like a lot about this movie, but I did find Matt Dillon amusing. Too bad most of his best lines were in the trailer.
- In case you think I’m being too hard on the film, it currently hovers at 14% on Rotten Tomatoes. The absolutely dreadful looking R.I.P.D. is at 12% (and have we, as a society, finally decided that Ryan Reynolds is no longer a thing? Please tell me yes.)
This cast could have done a lot more with better material, but they are completely handicapped by the writers’ idea that if you turn the wackiness up to eleven that is all that is necessary to make a comedy. Sadly, Girl Most Likely just isn’t much fun and I wanted it to be over well before it was. The film feels like it is trying way too hard to be eccentric and weird, resulting in a paint by numbers comedy that is far too calculated to be amusing. With no coherent plot, little to no actual character development and a lot of people that it is too easy not to like, Girl Most Likely is the film most likely to be a waste of your time. A disappointment from beginning to end.