From the She Said/She Said series of movie reviews …
Natalie: I really wanted to like Girl Most Likely. Kristen Wiig as a New York playwright with a zany, dysfunctional family seemed promising—almost Bridesmaids-promising. Wiig has a certain dark-comedy edge that lends her credibility when playing just-dumped, just-fired characters in the depths of human despair—and somehow she still makes them funny. But after a while, the movie proved to be a bizarre series of clichés. Sure, it has its redeeming moments—but expect some major flaws.
Amanda: At times, it felt like a game of indie-movie Mad Libs, in which the writer filled in blanks like “mentally challenged sibling’s weird obsession” and “cheesy dance moves.”
N: The arc of the plot is fairly formulaic: Imogene (Wiig) loses everything she has, and goes back home (to her New Jersey boardwalk hometown, rich with all-too-true stereotypes) on a quest to find herself. She finds out something quite life-changing about her past, after which point she’s never the same again. She also endures a series of humiliations as a result of losing everything—like sleeping in a sheet-fort in her childhood home’s living room because her mom is renting out her room. But despite the funny, occasionally touching parts of the movie, there were cliché moments that rubbed us the wrong way.
Cliché #1: The guy who dumps the main character has no personality except “douche.”
A: We don’t learn much about Imogene’s ex during the movie. He appears to work in finance, he’s emotionally distant, and he looks a bit like Scott Disick. There’s no evidence of what sparked their romance in the first place. So when he leaves her like an empty tube of hair product (I mean he really looks like Scott Disick), we don’t really care. He’s just there to jump-start the plot.
Cliché #2: A single woman is an unhappy woman.
A: Scratch that. A single woman is also an unemployed, unhinged, ostracized woman. Being dumped is a catalyst to dysfunction in every other facet of Imogene’s life. She immediately loses her job and then her fair-weather best friend. I’m happy to note this usually only happens in the movies.
N: Ha. Same.
Cliché #3: Desperate times call for desperate measures.
A: Imogene decides to fake a suicide attempt to get her ex back. I actually thought this was done in a way that was darkly funny, but I was confused. How did she not wake up when her friend found her body? Wouldn’t she have been able to see her plan was foiled and avoid the hospital altogether?
N: I actually saw this differently. I thought she had been awake the whole time, just good at faking it when her friend found her. And that she went to the hospital in order to make the whole thing seem more real. Personally I found the whole sequence incredibly crass and belittling.
Cliché #4: Estranged family members pick up the pieces.
A: When Imogene’s best friend bails on her after the faux suicide, Imogene’s mom Zelda (Annette Bening) drives into NYC to claim a daughter she hasn’t seen in several years. She’s hesitant to take her home for maybe 30 seconds, but the two quickly fall back into a rhythm. Honestly, I didn’t see what was so bad about Zelda. Supposedly her mom was a gambler, but her behavior during the movie doesn’t suggest that she was compulsive. It makes Imogene a much-less reliable narrator.
N: Well she seemed like an egotist, so there is that, and telling Imogene the lie she told her (we won’t spoil it for you) proved her to be beyond untrustworthy. But she also just wasn’t a very well-defined character—a bit too much of a stereotype for me.
Cliché #5: But wait: There’s one more family secret.
A: Don’t worry. We’re not spoiling this one. Let’s just say it’s implausible and would warrant a lot of expensive therapy in real life.
Cliché #6: A new man saves the day.
A: And surprise, Lee (Darren Criss) loves everything about Imogene—even all the stuff she was hiding about her past from her ex and fancy ex-friends. He’s also cuter and younger than her ex-boyfriend. In fact, there’s no way these two could possibly sustain a relationship after the credits roll.
N: Yeah, it seems ridiculously implausible that they would last—they are at such different stages in their lives, and the movie just sort of ignored that.
Cliché #7: And they all live happily ever after.
A: Imogene’s reconnection with her kooky family in Jersey isn’t just good for her love life. It also reignites her career. The only cliché we didn’t see? A redemptive run-in with her ex-friends after Imogene comes out on top. But we’d bet a movie ticket a scene like that was originally written and then cut …