In Girl Most Likely, an aspiring but failed playwright named Imogene (Kristen Wiig), learns that everyone in Manhattan is a treacherous, status-grubbing snob and that the real salt of the earth lives out on the Jersey shore. Anyone who has witnessed the antics of Snooki and Co. — even if only for a few horror-filled minutes — can dispute this hypothesis. Yet Girl Most Likely insists on its relevance, which wouldn’t be a problem if only there were more laughs to temper it.
Wiig’s passive-aggressive brand of comedy worked perfectly in Bridesmaids, so she’s well qualified to play the self-delusional Imogene, who won a playwriting contest years earlier but has been unable to live up to her potential. Instead, she has scrambled to make and keep snotty friends who don’t really seem to like her. She’s also managed to land a job at a magazine and a wealthy Dutch boyfriend, both of which she loses almost immediately as the movie opens.
A fake suicide attempt lands her in the hospital, where the doctor will only release her to her estranged mother (Annette Bening), a compulsive gambler and all-around nut who lives in Ocean City. To be honest, though, she’s not that terrible and actually seems kind of nice. But cue Bon Jovi’s Bad Medicine and clips of overweight, badly dressed people on the beach anyway. Imogene ends up back in the small house she grew up in, sharing space with her emotionally stunted, hermit crab-obsessed brother (Christopher Fitzgerald) and her mom’s strange younger boyfriend (Matt Dillon) who claims he’s in the CIA.
Also in the mix is Lee, an adorable young boarder (Darren Criss of Glee), who is renting out Imogene’s old room. Lee, a disillusioned Yale Whiffenpoof now relegated to performing in a cheesy casino show, acts as proof of the movie’s thesis about unsuccessful people being awesome, but he makes up for it by singing a Backstreet Boys number. There’s also a ridiculous subplot about Imogene’s father, who is supposed to be dead but isn’t.
What the Girl Most Likely lacks is the heart of any good comedy, no matter how silly: the ability to evoke a sense of empathy. Imogene seems way too old for all this childish pouting, and she’s so willfully clueless about her shallow friends and her own awfulness that you never really care if she gets her life to work out. Besides, how smart is she if she has no idea that an adorable younger boyfriend is currency anywhere on earth?
The movie does miraculously end up making good use of a couple of running jokes, and the cast soldiers on, though the laughs are meager. But mostly, Girl Most Likely is a case of good actors in serious need of worthwhile material.
Cast: Kristin Wiig, Annette Bening, Darren Criss, Matt Dillon.
Directors: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini.
Screenwriter: Michelle Morgan.
Producers: Mark Amin, Alix Madigan, Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler.
A Lionsgate release. Running time: 103 minutes. Sexual content, language. Opens Friday July 19 in Miami-Dade: Aventura, Cocowalk, South Beach, Sunset Place; in Broward: Paradise, Gateway; in Palm Beach: Shadowood, Palace, Delray, Parisian.