Girl Most Likely opens in select theaters on Friday July 19th, but thanks to a friend, I got to see an advanced screening of it last night.
This was a movie I was very much looking forward to because of my love of Kristen Wiig and Darren Criss. Going into the film, I knew bits and pieces of the plot (and read some less than favorable reviews), so I wasn’t expecting it to be the greatest movie of all time. I was pleasantly surprised to find the film far more entertaining than I thought it was going to be. Girl Most Likely boasts a great ensemble cast, an assortment of interesting characters and an okay script. The last ten minutes or so got a lot weird for me and it ended a little clunky, but the overall journey put a lot of things into perspective.
(Some spoilers ahead, so ye be warned.)
The film opens with young Imogene Duncan rehearsing the role of Dorothy in a youth production of The Wizard of Oz. She finds the “There’s no place like home” line to be bullshit and we quickly learn that adult Imogene has been trying to separate herself from her own home life as much as she can. (In her eyes, her mother is self-centered, gambles a lot and has control issues – for example, though Imogene and her brother, Ralphie, had birthdays 84 days apart, they had a combined birthday party.) Imogene hails from Ocean City, but lives in New York City and would probably prefer never to step foot in her hometown again.
But, after a fake suicide attempt (which she did solely to try and get her ex-boyfriend back), Imogene gets turned over into her mother’s care for 72 hours. Imogene assumes the worst in her mother when she (Imogene) wakes up in the back of her mom’s car in the parking lot of a casino. She then finds her childhood room has been rented out to a 20something stranger named Lee (Darren Criss) and that her mom has a live-in boyfriend who “works” for the CIA.
To be honest, most of the characters are a little far-fetched. The CIA boyfriend (Matt Dillon) is spouting all this nonsense about being a Samurai and speaking like he’s some sort of demented fortune cookie. Imogene’s mom, Zelda (Annette Bening) keeps making these sandwiches for her boyfriend, and she really does seem to have a gambling problem. Ralphie (Christopher Fitzgerald – who ended up being one of my favorite people in the move) has some sort of developmental handicap and won’t go anywhere past the Boardwalk. He also fancies the girl who works the glitter facepaint kiosk across the Boardwalk from his Crabville kiosk (he is a mollusk expert and designed this super awesome human shell which comes into play multiple times throughout the film). And then there is Lee… the Yale grad who works as the frontman for a Backstreet Boy cover band.
Even if I wasn’t a huge fan of Darren, I still would have been a fan of his character. Lee is the most emotionally balanced character in the whole film. While his first few run-ins with Imogene are a little tense, it’s not his fault (she walks in on him in his room, he accidentally walks in on her in the bathroom, she demands he drive her to NYC, etc…). Lee is slightly standoffish, but all his points are valid. When Imogene finally asks him about himself, he is completely honest with her and she doesn’t believe him, as she never seems to put trust or faith in the right people (except her brother – I really liked her relationship with her brother).
The Lee/Imogene relationship shouldn’t work, but it makes sense that it does. Usually an older woman is more mature than a younger guy, but in this film, Lee has the emotional edge on Imogene and though there is about a 10-15 year age gap, he’s got a good head on his shoulders and manages to be carefree and fun (the bar scene) while still legitimately caring about Imogene and her family (the scene on the Boardwalk and the scenes in NYC). This character is actually really sensitive and with a less than genuine actor, Lee would have come across as two-dimensional and cliché. But Darren made Lee charming, sympathetic and empathetic. He wasn’t dealt a great hand either, but at least he’s trying to make the best of it. Lee is also the only character who effectively calls Imogene out on her shit.
(Small tangent on Darren as Lee – He looked phenomenal throughout the entire film. Props to the wardrobe department because every outfit was a winner. Also, props to the makeup department, because Darren in guyliner for the Backstreet Boys routine was a big old 10 out of 10. The Backstreet Boys bit was great. I literally had the same reaction as Imogene… a little startled/embarrassed at first at its ridiculousness, but then very turned on by the boyband-ness of it all. And, the greatest Darren moment in the whole movie was when he is sitting up in his bed, waiting for his lady friend to come back… his eyes were so kind and expectant, silently saying “I’m glad you’re back. Though this started out as a hookup, I’m still here and we’re in this together if you let me.”)
Lee’s inherent goodness actually made me like Imogene a lot less than I was expecting. (She was a bit redeemed with her caring relationship with her brother and the arc of the relationship with her mom, but on a whole Imogene was the most selfish character in the entire film and that bugged me because I didn’t want to root for her.) Imogene complained a lot but didn’t really take much action toward doing anything about it – and the actions she did take were volatile and a little (okay, a lot) cray cray. She came across as really entitled and put a lot of blame on her mother. And while her mother did make some odd choices over the years, it turned out they really were for the best interest of her children. When Imogene finally realizes this is when I started to actually care about her character a little bit.
Even though I am a woman, I am usually drawn to Father/Son movies as opposed to Mother/Daughter ones. Were I still living with my parents, I probably would have dragged my mom to this movie (she would have acquiesced because she loves me and I love Darren), but we wouldn’t have been able to relate to the Zelda/Imogene relationship. I have a fantastic relationship with my mom and never once thought her to be a self-obsessed parent. (If anything, my mom is the most selfless person I know.) So, perhaps it was my inability to relate to the female lead that also prevented me from fully enjoying the film. Zelda was not a bad mom. She wasn’t “Mother of the Year,” but she was far from a terrible mother and it really bothered me that a lot of Imogene’s attitude problems stemmed from deep-rooted anger at a mother who actually did a lot for her. I mean, we all focus on the wrong things at times and let our grudges get the best of us, but I just felt that Imogene wasn’t being proactive about making things better.
So, besides not really liking Imogene that much or the last 10 minutes or so of the film (I literally muttered “What the hell?!” a few times when the plot got unbelievable to the point where it was silly, I also have a problem with the title. The film was originally called “Imogene” when it was released last year at TIFF. A few months ago, though, it got changed to “Girl Most Likely.” Wiig’s character isn’t a girl – she’s a woman. She’s a woman in her 30s and she’s an adult (albeit one who acts childish on occasion). “Girl Most Likely” makes it sound like the movie is going to be this quirky rom-com (with emphasis on the “com”), but in reality this film is a balance of the dramatic and comedic. It shouldn’t be pigeonholed as a rom-com because the “rom” part isn’t really a major player. In fact, one could argue it’s not even a player at all. This isn’t a movie about Imogene finding love or a relationship with a man; it’s about her accepting her life and realizing the stuff she thought was important isn’t and that she can’t just give up when things don’t go her way.
I have a feeling this film is going to get buried at the box office. I actually haven’t seen any commercials for it (even though I know some have aired), and it’s only playing in select theaters. It’s not a rom-com, it’s not a broad comedy like Bridesmaids was (even though that was more poignant than some people give it credit for), and it doesn’t have robots or aliens in it. Girl Most Likely is an enjoyable film that does make you think and feel… but a majority of the theater-going audience likely won’t know about it. That’s actually a shame because there were some really great moments in the film and the cast was really very good.
I’m grateful to have seen this in theaters and will buy the DVD when it comes out. (My fingers are crossed for a commentary and some BTS stuff.)