“Girl Most Likely” is a comedy from Kristen Wiig’s alternate universe career – the career she might have had without “Bridesmaids.”
A daft, thin and instantly forgettable farce about a woman of once-great promise who fakes a suicide attempt to hang on to a beau who is bailing on her, it’s the sort of movie that has its Manhattan heroine turn out to be from New Jersey – as if that’s all it takes for hilarity to ensue. It relies on Wiig’s charms, Matt Dillon’s wackiness and lots of examples of that favorite crutch of underwhelming romantic comedy directors – cute time-lapse montages set to pop music.
Imogene (Wiig) is a blurb writer for the arts section of a New York magazine. It’s not exactly where she saw herself 10 years ago, when her student play was winning acclaim and her future seemed bright.
And then she’s fired from that blurb gig. Good thing she has her beau (Brian Petsos) to lean on. Only she doesn’t. He’s dumping her, no matter how much she pleads “I don’t really trust myself to be alone right now.” Getting dolled up, writing a note and taking sleeping pills on the hope that he will be the one to discover and save her doesn’t work out, either.
The hospital promptly “sentences” her to be taken home by her estranged mother – the one who lives in New Jersey.
Annette Bening is the blowsy, brassy Ocean City mom Imogene so wanted to escape. We understand why when mother Zelda leaves the heavily medicated Imogene sleeping in the car so Zelda can hit the casino on the way home. Her advice that “Some men are ‘stayers’ and some are ‘leavers’ – you’re better off finding it out now,” may be sound. But Imogene isn’t hearing it.
Zelda’s living with a blowhard (Matt Dillon) who whispers to one and all that he’s a CIA hitman. And they’re all sharing the rattletrap Jersey Shore house with Imogene’s special-needs brother (Christopher Fitzgerald). Imogene’s old room? Zelda rented it out to hunky young club entertainer Lee (Darren Criss of “Glee”).
“Girl Most Likely” tracks Imogene’s flailing attempts to hang onto her wealthier, shallower New York mean-girl friends, her tentative attraction to the supportive Lee and her efforts to make sense of a life that had so much promise and went so wrong. Maybe the father she barely knew is the key.
Wiig does this ugly-duckling-who-doesn’t-think-she-deserves-the-guy thing well. But usually, she dresses down so much we believe her ordinariness. In this film, she’s wearing Bullock-level makeup in every shot, even when she’s trapped wearing her “old” ’90s clothes, because that’s all Imogene can find in the house she grew up in. Her Imogene never lets us believe she’s as unhinged as she claims to be.
There’s an engaging connection with her brother, who sells crabs in a booth and who believes a shell or “exoskeleton” is the perfect defense against modern life. And Dillon is an old hand at this sort of clueless, comical creep – pontificating about “the samurai tradition” and the like as if he has some sort of killer’s connection to it.
But co-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (“American Splendor,” “The Extra Man”) never find the right balance between pathos and farce. And they compound their frustration at this by hurling pop-music montages to try and put a head on this flatter-than-flat beer.
Whatever their other gifts, they cannot find the fizz here. They never get Wiig to commit to the sort of film that she, even when she was making it, must have realized was beneath her in her post-“Bridesmaids” glory.