Largely ignored by cinema audiences both in the UK and across the pond, directing duo Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s Girl Mostly Likely (2012) may also struggle to find adoration on the small screen. Whilst there are occasional moments of fun insight, it largely fails to harness the sharp comedic skills of star Kristen Wiig and suffers from a sketchy and unfocused script. Wiig is Imogene, a struggling writer who is part of an elitist New York literary circle, due largely to her ‘connected’ boyfriend and (now floundering) writing career. Her life begins to quickly fall apart when she loses both her lover and her job.
Wrongfully hospitalised after staging a dramatic suicide attempt, Imogene is taken into the care of her estranged mum Zelda (Annette Bening), a chronic gambler who brings her back to the working-class New Jersey boardwalk town she grew up in (cue Bon Jovi blaring out over the soundtrack). There, she’s reunited with her eccentric younger sibling Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald) and introduced to her mum’s new boyfriend and ex-CIA agent, George Bousche (Matt Dillon). She also has to contend with a lodger who has taken her old room (Darren Criss). Slowly, Imogene attempts to re-establish herself amongst her Big Apple acquaintances, but her path to happiness and contentment may no longer lie with that world.
Girl Mostly Likely feels a long way from Berman and Pulcini’s wonderfully acerbic feature debut, 2003’s endlessly inventive American Splendor. They’ve certainly done the best they can with the limp material but struggle with the uncertainty of tone throughout in Michelle Morgan’s script, which can’t decide whether it wants to be a darker character study or a gentler, knockabout farce. Both of these scenarios fail largely to engage like they should, and for the most part, the film feels like a collection of scenes from an insipid sitcom, strung together to form a feature.
Wiig does what she can, but the screenplay simply isn’t up to her standard of comedy and thus she’s rarely offered a moment to shine. Her co-stars aren’t given much either, with Dillon’s paranoid spook caricature being particularly irksome. It’s also a shame to see the great Natasha Lyonne relegated to one of the most thankless roles in recent cinema history. Wiig keeps the film from being a complete write-off, with Girl Mostly Likely a minor blip on her post-SNL Hollywood trajectory. Here’s hoping she manages to strike comedic gold with her next cinematic venture.