After the blockbuster success of Bridesmaids, actress Kristen Wiig announced she’d be skipping the requisite sequel to try her hand at a more darkly comic role in a black comedy then-titled Imogene. Its basic storyline – a failed playwright (Wiig) moves in with her gambling addict mother (Annette Bening) after faking her own suicide – sounded teasingly reminiscent of beloved ‘90s seriocomedy Postcards from the Edge. But any hopes I had that Wiig and Bening might recapture that classic Streep/MacLaine chemistry quickly went out the window as the finished film – blandly re-titled Girl Most Likely - unspooled. Less a mother/daughter story than a young woman/weird world yarn, Girl Most Likely is a meandering film that fails as black comedy (it’s not black enough) or plain comedy (it’s not funny enough). Instead, it plays as 104 minutes of quirk, with Wiig stuck in the mediocre middle playing against her strengths. Hit the jump for my Blu-ray review.
When we first meet Wiig’s character, Imogene, she seems to share some DNA with Annie, Wiig’s breakout role in Bridesmaids. Like Annie, Imogene is in a shit place both personally and professionally. But while Bridesmaids inflicted Wiig with a hilariously over-the-top asshole boyfriend (played by a game Jon Hamm), larger-than-life bridesmaid acquaintances, and a relatable, recession-era unemployment situation (her bakery went under), Girl Most Likely merely saddles Imogene with a vaguely asshole-ish boyfriend (Brian Petsos), some sort-of bitchy socialite friends, and a nebulously failed playwriting career. These watered down characterizations don’t give Wiig much to play or play against in the opening scenes.
Things become a little more interesting when the vaguely asshole-ish boyfriend dumps Imogene and, after faking her own suicide, she’s ordered to move back home to Ocean City, New Jersey, with her mother, Zelda. Zelda is played by Annette Bening as a tarted-up, gambling-loving ditz with an on-again, off-again Jersey accent. But while Bening brings some energy to the movie, her character hardly represents the kind of whirlwind force of maternal antagonism Shirley MacLaine represented in Postcards.
Worse, it turns out Zelda is merely one quirky member in a rogue’s gallery of criminally quirky folks inhabiting Ocean City, including Bening’s secret government agent boyfriend, “The Bousche” (Matt Dillon), her new tenant, a Yale-educated actor-turned-Backstreet Boy review singer named Lee (Glee star Darren Criss), and her other child, Imogene’s younger brother Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald), who dreams of navigating the world in a fiberglass bodysuit modeled after the shell of a mollusk. Quirky? Yes. Funny? Not really.
Failing to deliver the kind of mother/daughter narrative I expected, the film instead serves up a bunch of offbeat moments between these characters and a subplot involving Wiig’s search to locate her birth father. When she does track him down, he’s portrayed by Bob Balaban as another oddball, one-note character – this time, a successful author of a book attacking the myth of Thanksgiving. Neither Imogene’s father nor the myriad characters living in her mother’s house provoke interesting response from Wiig’s character, making her the empty center of a donut sprinkled with colorful but flavorless supporting characters.
Maybe if Wiig had played Imogene as more of an introvert and built her performance around the kind of hilarious facial reactions she demonstrated on Saturday Night Live and in Bridesmaids, the character would be more interesting. Instead, Imogene comes across as an overly vocal woman who bitches and moans but never says anything of real wit or intelligence. Frankly, there’s no point in sticking around for the film’s conclusion, in which Imogene’s first play is produced. How could this dull character write anything of real humor or profundity? The screenwriter of Girl Most Likely certainly didn’t.
The Blu-ray bonus features include a Gag Reel, “Making Most Likely” featurette, “Life in the Human Shell” featurette, and deleted scenes. None of these bonus features is particularly engaging and it’s especially painful to sit through the “Making-of” featurette. How could all of the film’s talent been so excited about such a meh movie?
Girl Most Likely is presented in 1080p High Definition 1:78:1 picture. Audio options include English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Visually, the film offers some nice scenic shots of New York City and the Jersey Shore, but the film’s overall color palette is pretty bland.
Kristen Wiig follows up the comedy hit Bridesmaids with this meandering film that delivers too much quirk and not enough laughs.
Girl Most Likely is rated PG-13 for sexual content and language. It has a run time of 104 minutes.