The dysfunctional clan in Girl Most Likely at least should make viewers feel better about their own families by comparison.
Unfortunately, that’s about the only redeeming quality about this lackluster comedy that fails to make a suitable vehicle for the charming talents of Kristen Wiig.
She plays Imogene, a fledgling New York playwright who hails from Ocean City, N.J., which is where she winds up after her life suddenly falls apart. To explain, she loses her magazine job and her disinterested boyfriend in the same day, which leads to a faked suicide attempt that lands her in a mental institution, causing her to be left in the care of her estranged mother, Zelda (Annette Bening).
The action moves to Imogene’s childhood home, where the eccentric and overbearing Zelda is living with an obnoxious younger boyfriend (Matt Dillon), Imogene’s sheltered and socially awkward younger brother (Christopher Fitzgerald), and an aspiring actor (Darren Criss) who has rented out her old bedroom to pay for Zelda’s gambling debts.
That doesn’t even include the bombshell of a secret that Zelda has been hiding from her children that prompts Imogene to confront her past both in the city and on the Jersey shore.
The film squanders talent on both sides of the camera, including directors Robert Pulcini and Sheri Springer Berman (American Splendor), whose latest effort provides some modest laughs but is missing the necessary satirical edge or sharp-tongued wit.
The script by Michelle Morgan (Middle of Nowhere) tries to examine a woman’s struggles with the fringes of fame and her ability to persevere through a host of personal demons and relationship issues. However, it never rings true because it bogs down in contrivances and heightened character quirks that emphasize sitcom caricatures over authentic family dynamics.
In fact, viewers might wonder throughout much of the film whether it’s meant to be taken seriously or as farce. That question is answered in a climax that betrays much of what had come previously.
Caught in the middle of this mess is Wiig (Bridesmaids), who brings depth to her portrayal and gamely conveys both strength and vulnerability. She remains grounded in reality, which is something Girl Most Likely never achieves.
Rated PG-13, 103 minutes.