It's a delicate thing to balance zaniness with sincerity. Make things too crazy, and the audience won't buy the touching moments. Make things too serious, and the crazy feels forced. "Girl Most Likely" features a nice balance between the two, but when it tries to mix in too much tension in the third act, it leaves a nice movie a bit uneven overall.
The easiest way to describe "Girl Most Likely" would be "the movie version of '30 Rock' if Liz Lemon bottomed out and never became head writer for 'TGS.’” But that might just be because "Girl Most Likely" is another story told from the female perspective of a former "Saturday Night Live" cast member (Kristen Wiig instead of Tina Fey).
"Girl Most Likely" is about the contrast between the shallow world of wealth and celebrity and the unconditional and often embarrassing love of your family. Early on in the film, Imogene (Wiig) is thrust from the comfortable mirage of the former into the harsh reality of the other. Once an aspiring playwright, Imogene is about to complete the process of being chewed up and spit out by the Big Apple when she loses her routine magazine writing job and gets dumped by her seedy boyfriend. In a fit of desperation designed to get him back, she fakes a suicide attempt and winds up under the dysfunctional care of her mother, Zelda (Annette Bening). To add insult to injury, her suicide note gets better reviews than anything else she's written in New York.
So Imogene finds herself in Ocean City, N.J., the hometown she so desperately fled years before. Here she finds a learning-deficient brother who is obsessed with crabs and petrified of leaving the city limits. Her mother has shacked up with a suspicious younger man (Matt Dillon) who insists on being called "George Bousche" because the CIA wouldn't have him reveal his true identity. Worst of all, some 20-something punk is sleeping in her bedroom because her mother decided to rent the place out.
From here, "Girl Most Likely" is pretty predictable, if consistently funny. Imogene is driven to return to New York and a life that is increasingly revealed to be shallow and pretentious, but we all know her destiny is to realize who is really important in her life. Still, the journey is enjoyable, even if it takes a few cliched Hollywood turns that would be more morally offensive if we hadn't seen them so many times before. There is a very nice message lurking in "Girl Most Likely," but you have to tune out some of the peripheral noise to hear it.
In “Bridesmaids,” Wiig led a female cast in an effort to prove that vulgar sexual comedies were not exclusively male territory. “Girl Most Likely” keeps its content firmly in PG-13 territory, and like the aforementioned “30 Rock,” it offers plenty of sharp humor and hijinks that will appeal to both genders. But coming at the film from the male perspective, I can’t help but think “Girl Most Likely” will offer something a bit extra for female audiences.
While the humor carries the film through two-thirds of its 100-odd minute running time, the sobering events of the film’s final act (involving an additional family member who will remain anonymous here) drive home the film’s warts-and-all pro-family message. It’s a balance that mostly works, though a final twist at the end introduces an odd tension that, while wacky, makes the film’s climax feel somewhat uneven.
"Girl Most Likely" is rated PG-13 for consistent (though never explicit) vulgar and sexual content, including profanity.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on the "KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. You can see more of his work at www.woundedmosquito.com.