'Girl Most Likely' Suffers from Tone-Deaf Cuteness

As it turns out, Girl Most Likely has plenty in common with Bridesmaids; that is, sharing that movie's sense of 30-something melancholy, rather than its big comic set pieces.

Girl Most Likely

Director: Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Christopher Fitzgerald, Matt Dillon, Bob Balaban, Darren Criss
Distributor: Lionsgate
Studio: Roadside Attractions
UK Release date: 2014-02-03
US Release date: 2013-11-05

When Bridesmaids broke out in 2011, Kristen Wiig seemed poised to become the next big comedy star, following in the footsteps of rarified fellow Saturday Night Live alumni like Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler. In the few years since, though, Wiig has shown admirably little interest in cashing in on her massive success, leaving her Bridesmaids costar Melissa McCarthy to jump ahead and become a major box office attraction. The closest Wiig has come to a comedy-star trajectory is booking her upcoming roles in Anchorman 2 (said to be a small part, and the kind of comic ensemble she probably would've joined regardless of Bridesmaids) and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (a sweet-natured if minor love-interest role in a surprisingly ambitious family film).

For the most part, Wiig seems to prefer smaller, purportedly less broad projects like Girl Most Likely, recently out on DVD. She plays a character called Imogene, and you can tell it used to be the title role (the movie's name was changed somewhere between its film-festival plays and its theatrical release) because everyone else in the movie says her name constantly, as if preparing for one of those trailer montages that cut between ten or 12 different utterances of a name in rapid succession.

Imogene was once a promising young playwright who won a prestigious grant but failed to produce an actual script; now she's floundering in New York City, just barely hanging on to her semi-high-society life when an unceremonious break-up with her boyfriend sends her into a tailspin. An ill-advised faked suicide attempt summons doctors, who in turn call her mother Zelda (Annette Bening) and remand Imogene to her care -- in dreaded New Jersey.

So as it turns out, Girl Most Likely has plenty in common with Bridesmaids; that is sharing that movie's sense of 30-something melancholy, rather than its big comic set pieces. It's one of a recent spate of movies about women in their 30s facing down romantic and professional failure by regression, and often moving back home with their parents, including this year's The Lifeguard and 2012's Hello, I Must Be Going. These films may well have been in place before Bridesmaids hit it big, but it's still surprising to find the less audience-friendly aspects of that film reflected in so many other followers.

Stranger still: the big-studio Bridesmaids covered this material with more aplomb than its indie counterparts. Hello, I Must Be Going at least portrayed 30-something regression with what felt like real-world veracity; Girl Most Likely does that indie-comedy thing where its broadest moments combine with its most affected quirks to heighten its oddness into total disbelief. Imogene has a sweetly affectionate relationship with her stunted brother Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald), for example, who refuses to travel further afield than the Jersey boardwalk and spends his time constructing a crustacean-style shell fit for humans to retreat into (the movie assumes the mere sight of the shell is funny in and of itself, as evidenced by a pointless DVD extra, "Life in the Shell", that consists of someone dragging the prop all around New York and placing it in incongruous locations). I think this is supposed to be both hilarious and poignant, instead of stupid and extremely stupid. However, it's rooted in a callous disregard for whether Ralph is quirky or in need of a professional diagnosis.

This tone-deaf cuteness has become something of a trademark for co-directors Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, who made such a wonderful and offbeat fiction debut with American Splendor ten years ago. Since then, they've carved out a niche telling similarly odd stories in and around the New York City area. Their films The Nanny Diaries, The Extra Man, and now Girl Most Likely all share a feel for the experience of struggling to live in Manhattan and the accompanying class envies that might play out in these situations.

They also share the distinction of not really working as movies despite talented casts, and Girl Most Likely is perhaps their cartooniest and most oversimplified vision yet: Manhattan is full of rich phonies, New Jersey has a realness that Imogene shouldn't be so eager to escape, and -- as with so many movies about stalled-out 30-somethings -- professional success is basically just a few solid decisions away, effectively negating any insights Girl Most Likely has about class. I wondered if a longer cut of the movie might have more resonance. The deleted scenes on the DVD, however, are as spare as its other features, they're more akin to deleted moments.

Wiig, it doesn't need to be said, can do better; she has a talent for underplaying but still drawing attention to a character's self-obsession (on the worry over her faked suicide note: "You thought it was that good?") and based on Bridesmaids, she could probably write a wicked or at least amusing chronicle of the Manhattan/New Jersey divide. Instead she and Bening (hamming up a Joisey accent), among others, are left flailing, and the ennui of Girl Most Likely starts to feel sadly metatextual.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.