There is a very good chance that I like Girl Most Likely — the latest from Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini — better than I really should. I freely admit that it’s not much more than a rom-com with a few quirky embellishments. It is most certainly not in the same league as the duo’s The Extra Man (2010). However, the truth is I had a good time with the movie — at least, once it got past a rocky start. Oh, it’s not going to make it within 50 feet of my best-of-the-year list, and it’s a toss-up as to whether I end up remembering it as the movie with the hermit crab suit or the movie in which director Whit Stillman makes a cameo appearance. But as a pleasant couple of hours at the movies, it’ll more than do.
Kristin Wiig stars as Imogene Duncan, a 30ish woman who was once all set to be a noted New York playwright — with a grant and everything — but now she’s become a kind of hanger-on who’s barely hanging on. In next to no time, her self-important boyfriend (Brian Petsos) dumps her, plunging the film into its single biggest misstep in which she threatens and stages a suicide to try to get him back. If this is supposed to be funny, it fails dismally. If it is supposed to generate sympathy, it fails even more. However, her not-quite-suicide attempt — and an overcrowded psych ward — does get her placed in the care of her none-too-stable gambling-addicted mother, Zelda (Annette Bening). The mother is such an unsuitable candidate for this job that she leaves the doped-up Imogene in the backseat of her car while she stops to gamble on her way home to Ocean City, New Jersey.
Not surprisingly, home (indeed, New Jersey) is not where Imogene’s heart is — and she’s less than delighted to learn that mom has a strange new boyfriend George (Matt Dillon), who claims to be some kind of secret agent. Worse, her room has been rented out to a lower-echelon (he’s a Backstreet Boy impersonator) casino performer, Lee (Darren Criss, TV’s Glee), whom she meets by barging in on him having sex. (I don’t know if this or the subsequent scene in which he wanders into the bathroom while she’s on the toilet is the film’s “meet cute.”) And then there’s her socially inept, crab-obsessed brother, Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald), who has never ventured beyond the Ocean City boardwalk.
OK, yes, you know where all this is going, but how it gets there is not only fun, it’s occasionally inspired. Sometimes, it’s even touching — especially in several quiet moments of discovery about Zelda’s past — and I never felt like I was wasting my time. The characters — at least the quirky ones — all have their good points and are worth getting to know. Whether the guest appearance of Whit Stillman during the film’s closing credits is meant to suggest that Girl Most Likely is somehow like his movies, I don’t know. But it most assuredly is not in that realm, even though it shares some of the same concerns as his work. The realm it does inhabit, however, it inhabits quite nicely. I imagine this is going to get steamrollered by all the movies opening this week, so I wouldn’t wait to catch it. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language.
Playing at Carolina Cinemas