Oddballs Without a Cause: In Girl Most Likely, Actors Fall Victim to a Pointless Script

Too eccentric for its own good

Kristen Wiig, center, and Annette Bening in Girl Most Likely.

Kristen Wiig, center, and Annette Bening in Girl Most Likely.

A good cast enlivens a labored farce called Girl Most Likely, another holdover from last year’s Toronto International Film Festival that is surfacing at last with the hope of cheering up forlorn filmgoers escaping the summer heat. It fails, thanks to the dubious combined efforts of co-directors Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman and a deadly screenplay by Michelle Morgan that is not funny, just pointless.

Kristen Wiig, the former Saturday Night Live star who wrote and starred in the vile, gross-out Bridesmaids, plays a hopeless, hapless underachiever named Imogene, who deserted the tacky Jersey shore for the literary lights of Manhattan, found mild success as a writer, then lost her fiancé and her job at a magazine in the same day. After trying to hold on to her heel of a boyfriend with a fake suicide attempt that backfires, Imogene is released from a psych ward into the custody of her estranged mother Zelda (Annette Bening, of all people, doing little more than falling back on her pill-popping schizophrenic mother bit in Running with Scissors), a vulgar, overbearing gambling addict who drags her back to the dilapidated family house in Ocean City, N.J. Zelda is so off the nail that on the way home she leaves the distraught Imogene in a casino parking lot while she plays the slots. In Imogene’s dysfunctional family, it’s hard to determine who is the biggest hole in the cheese. Mom lives with a new boyfriend (Matt Dillon) with a bogus identity who claims to be working undercover for the CIA. Mentally challenged kid brother Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald) wears oversized T-shirts that say “Crab Villa” (emphasizing his obsession with all things crustacean) and crawls around on the floor inside a fiberglass mollusk shell. These are the laughs, folks, only there is no laughter in the sound of silence that greets them.

Imogene’s only ray of sun is Lee, the lodger who has rented out her old room, a singer half her age in a Backstreet Boys cover band (played by Glee star Darren Criss), who takes her to bed and helps her plan an escape. Imogene rear-ends a Porsche in a car that Zelda has reportedly stolen and ends up in jail. Lee eventually drives Imogene and Ralph to New York, where they find the long-lost father they believe to have died during a colonoscopy, and … but wait. Can you take any more? This low-key movie plunges feet-first into a bottomless pit of failed subplots, dead-end comic episodes and a head-on collision with last-minute happiness that doesn’t convince. In the tradition of screwy films like The Hotel New Hampshire, Igby Goes Down and Running with Scissors, about eccentric characters whose only reason for existence is to be oddballs without purpose, Girl Most Likely relies on preposterous exaggeration to keep it afloat. The two directors never manage to involve this viewer in the contrived, constantly shifting story lines, and the deadly script by Michelle Morgan is just desperate.

The cast works hard to prove otherwise. Annette Bening plays the horny white-trash mother with relish, even when the awful screenplay continually strives to ambush her efforts, and dewy-eyed singer Darren Criss makes a promising movie debut. The insurmountable problem is that Imogene is not a very original, dynamic or charismatic character, and Kristen Wiig is not a very original, dynamic or charismatic actress. Nobody in this movie is really appealing enough to be much fun. The state of New Jersey should sue.

rreed@observer.com

GIRL MOST LIKELY

Written by: Michelle Morgan

Directed by: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening and Matt Dillon

Running time: 103 mins.

Rating: 1.5/4 stars