Girl Most Likely


Reviewed by: David Graham

Girl Most Likely
"Initially seems to be another quirkily neurotic chick-flick, but soon reveals itself to be surprisingly good-natured and insightful."

This early-to-mid-life crisis comedy-drama seems to have sunk without trace in the States, perhaps due to unrealistic expectations the presence of a post-Bridesmaids Kristen Wiig will have generated. It’s not as funny as her fans might have hoped, but it’s got charm in spades and a cumulative feel-good factor that deserves to be appreciated by lovers of off-beat fare. With a rambling storyline that adopts fairytale traditions in a refreshingly inventive way as well as a sterling supporting cast supplying frequent moments of both cutting wit and arresting truth, Girl Most Likely is perhaps too broad a proposition to appeal to the masses but it will no doubt strike a chord with anyone whose life has instantaneously collapsed around them or anyone who’s found solace in slacker-dom (themes carried over from married directing duo Shari Berman and Robert Pulcini’s cult hit American Splendor).

Manhattanite playwright Imogene enjoys the finer things in life – exclusive charity galas with her friends, a plush pad, having a rich foreign partner – but all at once everything comes crashing down around her, leaving her in the care of her ditzy estranged mother Zelda. Stranded in her resented hometown of Ocean City, New Jersey, Imogene is disgusted to find her old room being rented out to young buck Lee and her mother’s shady lover ‘the Bousche’ very much the man of the house she grew up in. Man-child brother Ralph offers some consolation, but Imogene’s desperate to get back to her life in NYC, and so enlists Lee to be her chauffeur. Soon however bitter truths and skeletons in closets turn her life even more upside-down, leaving her pondering what should matter to her most.

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Like a younger, hipper Blue Jasmine - down to one of the last songs on the soundtrack directly referencing Woody Allan's hit-and-miss career as a metaphor for relationships - this Girl initially seems to be another quirkily neurotic chick-flick, but soon reveals itself to be surprisingly good-natured and insightful. Its bittersweet crux is subtly summed up during a beautiful exchange between Wiig and Chris Fitzgerald’s Ralph, where she's trying to encourage her brother to leave their home-town to go out into the wider world. His enquiry on whether it's actually worth it results in her replying with heartbreaking honesty by simply saying, 'Sometimes.' It's the sort of moment of shared intimacy that really sells their relationship.

Michelle Morgan’s script can feel unbalanced in its treatment of the characters though: it's problematically easy to criticise for being so hung up on the clichéd arrested development angle and painting yuppies as exclusively hateful creatures compared to their wacky working class counterparts. Imogene is such an insufferable narcissist that it’s understandable her friends (who are admittedly false and shallow) have grown frustrated with her, while her irresponsible antics aren’t always as amusing as they could be. Wiig again walks a fine line between being easy to relate to and alienatingly irritating, but she gets to do more real acting here than previously, her eventual coming to terms with who and where she is in life feeling like a pleasing small victory for both the character and actress.

The acting across the board is what really makes things work. Annette Bening is a delight in the sort of role lionized by Alison Janney recently - she squeezes as much poignancy from her tacky Jersey broad as her costumes squeeze mileage from her cleavage - and Matt Dillon is effortlessly amusing as a character that could well have been descended from his There’s Something About Mary scene-stealer. Meanwhile, anyone who's seen Harmony Korine interviews might recognise a few of Christopher Fitzgerald's mannerisms, but he transcends the schlubby weirdo schtick worked by the likes of Zack Galifianakis by refusing to go for easy laughs and remaining subdued rather than strained. Glee star Darren Criss also shines as the requisite love interest, a somewhat unrealistic figure initially who’s soon developed into a genuinely positive, grounded individual.

It’s a bumpy ride for sure – an unhinged 21 And Over-style party scene fails to be as infectious as intended – but the tonal shifts are mostly handled with aplomb, and the transition into endearingly tainted fairytale territory towards the end really is naively moving. The crazy climax may be a step too far into sentimental screwball indulgence for some, but by then the ensemble have won enough goodwill to excuse any misgivings fussier viewers should have. The themes of unfulfilled potential are also lent more resonance with knowledge of the directorial couple’s own career, from Oscar-nominated ones to watch to authors of successive flops The Nanny Diaries and The Extra Man. Even if it’s not quite a sleeper hit, this curious little indie should restore some of their cinematic credibility, and anyone who enjoyed the similarly disarming Frances Ha or Safety Not Guaranteed should find Wiig’s latest creation an all too human protagonist that you ultimately can’t help but root for.

Reviewed on: 03 Oct 2013
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Girl Most Likely packshot
After her life collapses around her a woman is forced to move back in with her mother, and clashes ensue.
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Director: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini

Writer: Michelle Morgan

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Matt Dillon, Darren Criss

Year: 2012

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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