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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Girl Most Likely review: you can go home again, but it’ll probably suck

Girl Most Likely green light Kristen Wiig Annette Being

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.

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Girl Most Likely (2013)
US/Can release: Jul 19 2013
UK/Ire release: Sep 27 2013

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated SE for extended graphic suburban exile
MPAA: rated PG-13 for sexual content and language
BBFC: rated 12A (contains one use of strong language and moderate sex references)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    Where did the smart film come from all of a sudden? It’s summer, this isn’t supposed to happen…

  • sarah

    Can’t wait to see it

  • MaryAnn is very much in the minority on liking this. 14% on RT. Ouch.

  • RogerBW

    My experience is that when MaryAnn and RT disagree I’m likely to end up on the former side.
    Sure, it’s not 100%.

    But given the population of reviewers who seem to give positive reviews for every explosion or body function joke and negative ones for every bit of emotional complexity…

  • I don’t think I’ve ever been more shocked by an RT score than when I went to add my review and saw how low it was. I *really* did not see that coming. At all.

  • Bluejay

    given the population of reviewers who seem to give positive reviews for every explosion or body function joke

    Interesting observation, considering the 27% RT rating for The Lone Ranger, the 15% rating for R.I.P.D., and the 6% rating for Grown Ups 2.

  • I agree with this in reverse. Like how crappy Knocked up and Bridesmaids were. I’d have to go through her positive reviews of RT’s negatives to evaluate the other side. I really can’t say.

  • nwberger

    You come the closest of all of the RT critics (only 17% said see it) to hitting the nail on the head. If the critics couldn’t have fun watching this movie they need to check if they even have a funnybone. By the way, comedies are hardly ever perfect but that’s what those numbskulls were looking for. I loved it.

  • Everything you say here are things that I’ve been told when I hated a comedy that other critics have loved.

  • Suzanne

    Sorry to disagree with your lovely review, but Kristen Wiig better stick to dubbing voices for animated features. Just came from viewing this sad movie, and Ms. Wiig facial expression never changed throughout the entire film–even when she was crying! Even the talented Ms. Bening & Mr. Criss could not save it from drowning in its own sorrow.

  • BrianJKelly

    Thanks so much for this review. My girlfriend was planning to go see this alone tomorrow since she figured I wouldn’t want to go because it looked like it might be a chick flick. I told her I remembered the trailer (thinking, “This will be wonderful or horrible”) and MaryAnn’s review, and wanted her to see it with me last night instead. I loved it! Thanks again for pointing out a good movie I might have missed otherwise.

  • LaSargenta

    Saw this with Loverman the other night on Netflix. We both really enjoyed it and have been recommending it to others. I have NO clue why you’re the outlier among the critics. Loved the Whit Stillman cameo, btw. Only one quibble…how the hell did Lee keep finding parking spaces *right* in front of wherever they needed to be in Manhattan?!

    Oh yeah….and, can I hang out with Annette Benning’s Zelda? I’m not big on Atlantic City, but she was fun.

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