Film Review: GIRL MOST LIKELY: hit probably not

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Since Kristen Wiig hit biig with BRIDEMAIDS, audiences have been expecting a follow-up, something acutely-observed, with the potential to re-define the genre, preferably upstaged by Melissa McCarthy. Here are my suggestions:

BABY SHOWER: Lois (Lily Collins) gets pregnant and asks her romantically-challenged best friend Hilary Packer (Wiig) to arrange a baby shower. But then Hilary also discovers she’s pregnant. Can she keep her secret and not upstage her big day? Melissa McCarthy cameos as a cynical district nurse.

DISTRICT NUDGE: District Judge Ellen Poltrow (Wiig) finds herself on the wrong end of a speeding ticket and ends up in jail where she faces the women she put away. She is taken under the wing of a cynical convict (Melissa McCarthy) who is actually planning an escape and to make Ellen the fall gal. Jon Hamm co-stars as a serial prison visitor. (‘I don’t actually know anybody in jail, but I want to.’)

HOSTILE CALIFORNIA (it’s a pun on the Eagles song, okay?): Angela Dunne (Wiig) finds her boyfriend (Jon Hamm) is cheating on her with a svelte model type (Lily Collins) and takes his surf board. She wanders down Venice Beach and finds an unlikely surf mentor, an aqua-phobic (Chris O’Dowd). Melissa McCarthy plays the coast guard. (‘I’m Pamela freaking Anderson without implants.’)

Do you think I’d put decent movie ideas in a blog?

Wiig’s biggest giig since 2011 is voicing two characters in DESPICABLE ME 2. If she wants to promote non-traditional female role models in movies, do they have to be animated? She has however also made GIRL MOST LIKELY also known as IMOGENE, a mother-daughter movie. It does not have much of a plot – failed playwright Imogene (Wiig) is forced to move back with her mother (Annette Bening) in Ocean Park, New Jersey. Mom apparently had Imogene when she was 19; that’s a bit cruel on Ms Bening, but I applaud her playing a ‘real woman’, one with a nasal accent, an addiction to gambling and a boyfriend (Matt Dillon) who probably isn’t the secret agent he pretends to be. With an adult brother who is deeply into molluscs – he even built his own bullet-proof shell - Imogene is the sanest person in a family of lunatics. As the voice-over gal might say, ‘She’s the only one who’s been in a straight jacket but the rest of ‘em ought to be committed.’ Then she finds out that her dad is alive. He’s the author of a book called ‘The Myth of Thanksgiving’. He lives in a big house in New York. How is that even possible? The book isn’t even in print any more.

Romance comes in the form of Darren Criss as the lodger in her room. He has a vibrant sex life and washes the sheets once a week. He’s also a Backstreet Boy impersonator. Do you think he and Imogene will get together? Will Imogene get her life in New York back (she was fired from a magazine and lost her boyfriend)? Will Whit Stillman make an unexpected cameo in the final scene? Will the demographic who find that touch remotely amusing even show up?

GIRL MOST LIKELY is all over place. Essentially is about East Coast snobbery, the tension between New York and its blue collar neighbour, New Jersey. At the start, the film is self-consciously quirky with a capital KW. In a school production of THE WIZARD OF OZ, the young Imogene won’t say ‘There’s no place like home.’ ‘Here, there are fantasy creatures and a big castle. Why would I want to go back?’ ‘Because it’s in the script!’ ‘But that’s just stupid.’ Cut to twenty years later and Imogene is represented by a point-of-view shot as she gets into a taxi and attends a fund raiser, otherwise known as tax avoidance hypocrisy; why do they never say that in movies? It’s semi-promising until the moment that her Dutch boyfriend dumps her. Then she goes into meltdown and, after losing her job, pretends to be suicidal. Only she falls asleep. Her best friend, who has the big book launch coming up – cue well-sign posted set piece – discovers her. Then she is committed. When Mom turns up to collect her, but Imogene wants someone who actually loves her to look after her.

This ought to be funny. But it isn’t. We don’t really identify with Imogene. She’s due a rude awakening, but we don’t like the characters who provide it either. So, in this sympathy desert, with Matt Dillon who must be older than Annette Bening but sure does not look like it, doing the kooky secret service man act (‘I’m going to have to confiscate your camera – no one must know of my existence’; trust me in this movie, they won’t) and Imogene’s brother making a tent bed in his room like he did when they were kids, we sit there waiting for the tickle. The whole film seems false - it’s ‘quirk excess’. (There’s nothing like a bit of dated software humour.)

Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman are the directors. They were responsible for AMERICAN SPLENDOR, which starred Paul Giamatti as Harvey Pekar, and THE NANNY DIARIES, which featured Scarlett Johansson as a child minder. I have no idea how they pick their projects. What they say here is, New York is full of self-obsessed, cold hearted pricks. New Jersey is full of warm-hearted kooks. Choose kooks over pricks.

Imogene’s play looks awful; there’s no way it would be a hit. The ending is just one where you throw your arms up and go ‘whaa’. Did I tell you there’s a pay-off to Dillon’s character that gives it a redemptive finish? Whaa!

I half-liked the scene where a boardwalk glitter specialist picks up on Imogene’s aura and decorates her with glitter tears; no one laughed though. The rest of the film freezes your responses. The script is credited to Michelle Morgan; there is the vague suspicion of a pseudonym.

Reviewed at Vue Islington, London N1, 18:30 screening on Tuesday 17 September 2013. Noisy latecomers who talked to each other during the movie and checked their phone were admitted. 

About the author


Independent film critic who just wants to witter on about movies every so often. Very old (by Hollywood standards).

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