How a film performs at a festival and how a film will perform in a real world scenario are often two very different things. Girl Most Likely is simply one of those films that tries to force an indie, quirky New York sensibility into the most banal of scripts, and yet it sold for quite a bit of money on the festival circuit. It’s hard to believe, but the “thirty-something woman who is reinventing her life” genre actually takes a step back thanks to a script and direction that would be lazy by 1980’s TV movie standards.
Imogene (Kristen Wiig, playing a character who served as the film’s original title when it played at TIFF in 2012)once was a promising playwright until she got caught up in the Manhattan highlife with a job at an upscale magazine, a European boyfriend and high class buddies. The rug gets pulled out from under her and in a short matter of time, losing her boyfriend, her job, her friends and her apartment. Desperate to get it all back after a faked suicide attempt, she’s left with one terrifying prospect in order to climb back in her life, she has to go home…to New Jersey. Reuniting with her estranged and eccentric mother (Annette Bening), she discovers things are a little different, with a strange man sleeping in her bed (Darren Criss) and another one sleeping next to her mother (Matt Dillon). When a bombshell from her childhood emerges, Imogene is determined to return to the city to get her life back on track, but that process may entail a little more then she expected, and she’ll need to make peace with her past in order to truly move on.
This is an enormous failure on multiple fronts, which is a bit of a shocker as the credits of both the cast and crew of Girl Most Likely actually reads pretty damn strong on paper. The directorial team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini once made the incredibly strong American Splendorbut the gap in quality between those efforts is epic. The execution is incredibly forced, trying to shamelessly mine laughs out of something that would be only mildly amusing at the best of times. The script from Michelle Morgan runs through so many tired clichés that interest and suspense is lost far too early into this bloated 111 minute monstrosity. I genuinely didn’t give a rat’s ass what happened to any of these characters, who are either just flat out horrible people or just being eccentric for the sake of being eccentric. And when the story diverges into forced romantic subplots and repercussions from international assassins (SERIOUSLY) it won’t matter because you’ll have checked out long before any of this ridiculous shit happens. It’s just unbelievable dull and the no one has a single thing to work with.
Wiig comes across worst of all, sadly. In past films when she plays such severely falwed characters, they all had one unifying trait that made them work: they were actually funny. The material lets her down as the script never really knows if it is trying to be dramatic or amusing, and the incompetence here offers no distinction. Annette Bening and Matt Dillon barely register or make a difference in the story at all, and only Darren Criss, best known from the hit show Glee, brings any kind of energy as Imogene’s new roommate and aspiring showman. He has decent chemistry with Wiig and they both work well together, but it’s a shame they can’t make it work.
This is a bloated mess that really has no business existing. Even if all parties involved could make the distinction between what’s supposed to be funny and what’s supposed to be dramatic, it still wouldn’t work. It’s the rare example of a near perfect top to bottom disaster.