How many movies have we seen over the last year where the plucky heroine, in quick, brutal strokes, loses her boyfriend and loses her job?
Such is the case for Kristen Wiig's sadsack Imogene Duncan in the opening minutes of the clumsy comedy Girl Most Likely. Her beau dumps her on the cab ride back from a fancy party, and then her boss sends her packing after Imogene inserts a critical voice into her blurbs about Broadway shows. Never mind that she was a promising young playwright with a prestigious award on her resumé. Now she's broke and brokenhearted. Nothing left to do but move back in with Mom.
Which is how Imogene finds herself at the Jersey Shore, where Zelda (Annette Bening) has rented out Imogene's old room to a guy in a Backstreet Boys tribute band (Darren Criss, from Glee). On a first-name basis with the security guards at the Atlantic City casinos, Zelda has also opened her house - and her bed - to George Bousche (Matt Dillon), who skulks around mysteriously and talks about his days as an international spy. The other resident of the Duncan abode is Imogene's socially challenged inventor brother, Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald), a schlumpy ball of self-doubt. There may as well be a sign in the driveway: Kooky Characters Live Here.
Girl Most Likely's screenplay is by Michelle Morgan, an actress and writer who gets to realize a revenge fantasy of sorts: Rejected by her snooty New York arts and society friends, Imogene discovers what's really important about life (yes, there's a romance with the Backstreet Boys dude) and then returns to show her pretentious clique a thing or two.
But on the way, there's Imogene's quest for a missing family member - a scenario that proves both awkward and awkwardly unfunny. Bob Balaban brings his trademark perturbation to bear in the role of the errant relation.
Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who fared far better with American Splendor and its cast of neurotic misfits, Girl Most Likely is flat and mostly unsurprising. Wiig's wardrobe - denim vests, ratty Converse high-tops - is supposed to be amusingly anachronistic, but instead it's just kind of unflattering. Resolutely, the Bridesmaids star plugs on, flashing that look of crinkled concern, her trademark deadpan drollery.
It works here and there. And then it doesn't.
Girl Most Likely ** (Out of four stars)
Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. With Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Darren Criss, Christopher Fitzgerald, and Matt Dillon. Distributed by Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions.
Running time: 1 hour, 43 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (sex, profanity, adult themes)
Playing at: area theaters