By Glenn Whipp
5:40 PM EDT, July 18, 2013
We don't hear Kristen Wiig's perpetual striver Imogene sing along to any Bruce Springsteen songs in "Girl Most Likely," though, given her dim view of her native Garden State, you can easily imagine her pounding the dashboard at some point during her extended adolescence and bellowing, "It's a death trap / It's a suicide rap / We gotta get out while we're young / 'Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run."
Imogene escaped, but it's clear when we first meet her in this self-conscious, odd little comedy that denying her Jersey roots has somehow exacted a toll. After years of living in Manhattan, faking it to fit in with an insufferable clique of plastic people, Imogene gets dumped by her boyfriend, prompting a comically staged suicide attempt to win sympathy. Instead, it sends her to the hospital and then back to the swamps of Jersey, where she's going to have to deal with her brassy mother (Annette Bening, doing what she can with a barely defined role), her mother's delusional boyfriend (Matt Dillon), her schlubby brother (Christopher Fitzgerald) and the immensely likable young man ("Glee's" Darren Criss) renting her old Ocean City bedroom.
Somewhere in this overstuffed mix, there's probably a good movie about a woman's journey to self-discovery and self-acceptance. (Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig mined this territory earlier this year in the terrific "Frances Ha.") But "Girl," directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini ("American Splendor," "The Nanny Diaries") from Michelle Morgan's screenplay, is a tonal jumble, veering between forced farce and tired, rom-com beats, with little feeling real or true. The moments that do work tend to be small, character-based pauses in the wackiness that allow a gifted performer like Wiig the chance to open the window a crack and let in a little fresh air.
Watching Imogene negotiate her first Long Island iced tea is a beautiful thing. Spending extended stretches of time with her emotionally stunted (but possessing the wisdom of the ages!) brother down at his boardwalk hermit crab kiosk? Not so much. Yes, he's part of Imogene's world, the life she tried to shun but must now learn to embrace. But he might as well be an actual hermit crab for all he actually adds to the movie.
Put it another way: Somehow "Girl" connects the dots between the mollusk-obsessed brother and the samurai/secret agent shtick of Dillon's goofy boyfriend character. Locating the beating heart and flickering potential of its title character, however, proves elusive.
'Girl Most Likely'
MPAA rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language
Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Playing: In general release
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times