Girl Most Likely review: you can go home again, but it’ll probably suck
Absolutely hilarious and absolutely heartbreaking. Kristen Wiig is brilliant.
I’m “biast” (pro):
love Kristen Wiig, love directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
Where do you go when all your dreams are dead and nobody loves you and you have nothing to live for? You go home, of course.
Perhaps there has never been a better illustration of the adage about home being the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in than Girl Most Likely.
Not that failed playwright Imogene Duncan (Kristen Wiig: Despicable Me 2, Friends with Kids) wants to be there. She was pretty much okay with “failed playwright” — that’s old news. But when her Dutch Boyfriend Peter (Brian Petsos) — she says it like that, like that’s his name, because Euro boyfriend is better than the plain old New York kind among her snooty set — decides he’s done with her, this is the last straw. And so she does something… well, stupid yet inventive in a last-ditch attempt to salvage what’s left of her life. It fails, spectacularly, because it has to, because what Imogene imagines her life to be is nothing like what it is. So, no, wait– the sudden realization that her plan could never have worked because she had everything all wrong is the last last straw.
Personal meltdown ensues, absolutely hilarious and absolutely heartbreaking at the same time.
It might sound bizarre, but it is so wonderful to see a story up on the screen about a woman who’s this much of an authenic, plausible, fucked-up mess while still being achingly sympathetic. (Hell, even the many many similar films about male protagonists rarely get it this right.) There were moments in Girl when I was laughing and crying simultaneously, in commiserative recognition of Imogene’s pain and frustration and just plain discombobulation. Kristen Wiig is my new best friend. She’s brilliant, she gets It — “it” being the whole big disaster of adulthood that never comes together — and she’s awesome.
Girl isn’t just Wiig’s success, of course. Annette Bening (Ruby Sparks, The Kids Are All Right) as Imogene’s outrageous mom, Zelda, is a zingy ball of energic nuttiness. Matt Dillon (Takers, Nothing But the Truth) as George, Zelda’s new boyfriend, who thinks he’s a CIA agent, is a sweet riot. Christopher Fitzgerald as Imogene’s brother, Ralph, whose most enduring relationships are with beach crabs, is weird and cuddly and adorable. Darren Criss as the lodger Mom has rented Imogene’s old bedroom out to is funny and warm and, for Imogene, reinvigorating. Once she gets past the insult of a stranger sleeping in her bed, which might not be fair to him — or to Zelda, whom Imogene blames for this — because Imogene hasn’t been home in years. But still. It’s yet another one-last-straw affront, a reminder that Imogene has not one freaking clue where she’s supposed to be, or where she’s welcome. Screenwriter Michelle Morgan finds, with stinging bittersweet precision, all the most wretched awful things a despairing adult woman might find herself reduced to in such a situation. Like being forced to wear her old high-school clothes, or stealing a library book — because she needs it and she doesn’t even have any ID, God knows where her wallet is. Like being forcibly exiled from Manhattan to Ocean City, New Jersey. Maybe forever!
Yet there’s nothing whiny about Imogene or her plight. Directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini make this a thematic followup to their magnificent American Splendor, finding grace and poignancy in a life in freefall. I love love love this movie.
UPDATE Sep 26 2013: If you’re wondering about the quote “One of this year’s best movies” attributed to “FlickFilosopher.com” that’s appearing in British marketing for the film, please see this post.