It’s both unfair and inevitable that Kristen Wiig’s latest comedic effort, Girl Most Likely, will be compared to her last major hit, Bridesmaids. After all, that comedy juggernaut also found Wiig portraying a woman on the verge of collapse, a neurotic but lovable nutcase as well-intentioned as she is disastrous. However, it would be a disservice to both films to trust in that comparison. Girl Most Likely (screened as Imogene at Toronto) is undeniably a very different kind of comedic animal. Where Bridesmaids opted for gut-busting raunch, Girl Most Likely instead channels an astutely acerbic style of black comedy that serves its cynical story well.
Wiig stars as Imogene Duncan, a once-promising New York playwright who fakes a suicide attempt for attention when her job and relationship buckle in rapid succession. Humiliated and released into the care of her gambling-addict mother (Annette Bening), Imogene finds herself stuck in the one place she swore she’d never go again: home.
Though the film’s set-up is disappointingly familiar, Girl Most Likely manages to add a twist of bitter, black comedy to the proceedings. As Imogene readjusts to life with her shameless mother and introverted brother (Christopher Fitzgerald) on the Jersey shore, writer Michelle Morgan takes great pleasure in simultaneously dissecting and saluting family relations. For Imogene, those relations include fresh-faced lodger Lee (Darren Criss) and her mother’s sketchy boyfriend, “George Bousche” (Matt Dillon), who claims to live a life of danger in the CIA.
Despite the film’s great supporting cast, Girl Most Likely is first and foremost a showcase for Wiig. The underlying darkness that she hinted at in Bridesmaids is more fully explored here, as Imogene defends her selfish actions with oblivious egotism and groundless finger-pointing. Though the film doesn’t examine the roots of Imogene’s innate arrogance as thoroughly as I would have liked, small snapshots of her unhappy childhood eventually bubble to the surface. Wiig plays every beat perfectly, allowing audiences to empathize with Imogene even while shake their heads at her indiscretions. Whether she’s raging against the mother who “ruined her life,” ensnaring herself in a web of half-truths or breaking down into a rain-soaked swing chair, Imogene never feels less than genuine.
The rest of the characters aren’t as finely drawn, though excellent performances abound. Bening is sublime in the role of a world-weary, white-trash single parent, determined to carve out a little piece of sunshine in defiance of the financial hardships that hound her at every turn. She sparkles with a coy ebullience that Wiig, still a good girl, doesn’t even attempt to muster, and that’s what makes their on-screen chemistry so enjoyable. Given such dynamic roles, they play to each other’s strengths, creating a complex but gratifying mother-daughter duo.
Criss is also great as golden boy Lee, who sings and dances in casino shows while retaining his sanguine, boy-next-door demeanor. He’s the perfect foil for Imogene, always smiling and looking forward to what comes next. Their unlikely relationship works despite the significant age difference between the two actors, and watching Lee prepare Imogene to let the world back in is often funny and surprisingly heartwarming. His is an immensely likable role to begin with, but Criss avoids caricature, reading between the lines to give Lee a tender humanity that never crosses over into mush.
Dillon and Fitzgerald both have small roles but play them well. In particular, Dillon rises to the challenge. Bousche is a curious amalgam of overweening machismo and brazen shiftiness, fun to watch but tricky to read. To Dillon’s credit, the character rarely slips into self-parody, and a third-act twist involving him is both unexpected and totally earned. As played by Fitzgerald, Imogene’s brother Ralph is a little less compelling but still full of amusing character traits. An agoraphobic misfit, Ralph inhabits a fantasy world just as rich as Imogene’s; while she ignores the perfectly-manicured sharks of New York City and convinces herself that she belongs there, Rich envisions himself as a contented loner smart enough to avoid interpersonal relationships altogether. Though his character is thinly drawn and the film’s weakest link, Fitzgerald makes the most of his few scenes.
Girl Most Likely has a terrific cast, but it never pushes them as far as it should. The film’s emotional blow-outs aren’t as sharply written as they could be, and a meandering sense of purpose sometimes leaves the cast in the lurch. Wiig is the only participant to luck out with a multitude of biting lines. To be sure, Girl Most Likely yields some great scenes, but it’s uneven as a feature film. It would be inaccurate to call it a missed opportunity, but the fact that the film is only tolerable with a cast this good is surprising.
Lionsgate’s 1080p Blu-ray transfer is mostly satisfying, though the image appears a little washed-out, in certain scenes more noticeably than in others. Unless you’re watching on a large screen, this won’t constitute an issue, but it’s still surprising that Girl Most Likely didn’t receive as clean a transfer as other, similarly small-budgeted films. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Track is more than enough to preserve the audio quality of the film, and I never noticed any issues with it, even in scenes that feature blaring club music and dialogue simultaneously.
Girl Most Likely comes with a decent amount of special features, including:
- Gag Reel
- Deleted Scenes
- “Life in the Human Shell” Featurette
- “Making Most Likely” Featurette
- UltraViolet HD Digital Copy
The additional content on this disc is pretty minimal, with each segment clocking in at well under ten minutes. The gag reel is particularly disappointing, offering shockingly few entertaining moments. Deleted scenes are also mostly lackluster, though one interaction between Wiig and a disinterested casino employee is funny enough that it should have made the final cut.
The “Life in the Human Shell” featurette is a prime example of a funny idea that wears out its welcome quickly. It shows an unknown individual wandering around New York City in a full-body protective shell developed by Ralph. The clip is genuine but not very entertaining, as very few New Yorkers have fun reactions to the Human Shell (though that’s likely the point). Check it out for a few minutes but don’t feel obliged to watch it in its entirety.
The “Making Most Likely” featurette is certainly the most interesting complement to the film. Boasting interviews with writer Michelle Morgan, directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, producer Celine Rattray and costume designer Tom Broecker, the clip dwells on how Girl Most Likely‘s actors brought their characters from the page to the screen. The best part of “Making Most Likely” is definitely Morgan, who draws some intriguing parallels between her own family and the one presented in her script.
Girl Most Likely is worth checking out for its talented cast and unique humor, but it never feels as original or fulfilling as it should. Fans of Wiig and Bening will likely enjoy the movie, but I seriously doubt that Bridesmaids fans in search of another comedy classic will come away satisfied. In the end, Girl Most Likely is as ambitious, quirky and flawed as its winning protagonist.
A stellar cast led by Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening elevate this comedy's overly obvious story to the point of decency, even if their combined efforts aren't quite enough to help Girl Most Likely live up to its initial promise.