Just when aspiring playwright Imogene Duncan (played to amusingly lovable effectiveness by Kristen Wiig) couldn't possibly feel any worse about her life's sudden downward spiral, she arrives at a New York book party wearing a 90s flowery dress and learns what her so-called friends really think of her. That same night, Imogene confronts her mother's deep, dark secret only to be further disappointed with her life's direction and the happy little bubble she created for herself since childhood. Much of this takes place just past halfway into Michelle Morgan's script, serving as the plot's climactic point, after a long series of scenes showing Imogene continuously frustrated, thwarted, and disenchanted. The protagonist is already at her lowest, and the filmmaker's decide to give her a couple more kicks in the gut while she's down. Just for good measure.
This makes for a rather depressing comedy, watching a character we come to like and genuinely root for living in a tragic free-fall from upscale city life to the Jersey shore. 'Girl Most Likely,' from directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini ('American Splendor'), does have its moments of hilarity and offbeat humor, however, keeping things lighthearted and somewhat bubbly throughout. Annette Bening turns in a weirdly funny performance as the gambling-addict, former go-go dancing mother to Wiig's Imogene. Matt Dillon is also a nice surprise as the strange and odd "George Bush" (pronounced "boo-sch"), who claims to be a covert CIA operative with 25 years' experience as a samurai. And of course, there's Wiig herself bringing her usual cutesy charm, with a confidence that is also hesitant and a nervous fear of being exposed as a fraud.
Yet, in spite of these good-humored moments and well-meaning themes about self-reliance and honesty to one's self, the film feels largely generic, with a predictable conclusion that you see coming from as far away as the trailer. There are little to almost no surprises to be found here as the narrative hits on one emotional complication after another with calculated textbook timing. Some of these complications are resolved in such lazy fashion that they're wince-inducing, like Imogene's brother (Christopher Fitzgerald) too afraid to ask a glitter-makeup artist (Natasha Lyonne) on a date. The climax, which finally answers the question about "George" and what he does for a living, is not as funny as it feels like a rush to bring the story to an end because the filmmakers didn't know how to wrap things up. It just feels fake and unfulfilling.
Even the cruelty and faux-friendliness of upscale socialites, which is made blatantly evident to viewers in the first few minutes but which Imogene is apparently oblivious to, is there purely out of convenience to push our heroine in a corner from which she must learn to escape. And here also, there is little sense of originality since the characters are once again very familiar movie tropes of abusive, elitist snobs, people Imogene met when she was believed to be the next big thing to hit Broadway. This same problem of obligatory cinema clichés also overshadows the excellent performance of Darren Criss, who makes his big-screen debut. He plays the young, handsome, wise-beyond-his-years love interest Lee, a guy's guy who's there to piece our heroine back together and heal wounds by accepting our heroine just as she is.
When it comes right down to it, the comedy has a promising premise and seems to have been made with genuine heartwarming intentions, but it fails to deliver just enough laughs to make it whole entertaining or the least bit memorable. It feels much too familiar and lacks in surprises, wasting several great performances from Wiig, Bening, Dillon, and Criss. Things are much too neatly wrapped up by the end, leaving audiences with one lingering, almost nagging question: the 'Girl Most Likely' to do what?
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate Home Entertainment brings 'Girl Most Likely' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD25 disc and housed inside a blue, eco-cutout case with slipcover and a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. At startup, the disc commences with a series of skippable trailers before switching to the standard menu screen with full-motion clips and music.
'Girl Most Likely' debuts on Blu-ray with a generally ugly and bland 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.78:1). Shot entirely on HD cameras, the freshly-minted digital transfer comes with a rather flavorless, lackluster color palette, making for a noticeably dull and drained picture. It's never clear if the look of the film is intentional since there are a couple good moments where primaries shine to spruce things up a bit. Contrast and brightness predominantly falls on the weaker end with lots of murky, grayish shadows that tend to overwhelm the finer details, creating a largely flat and listless presentation through to the end. Banding is apparent when scenes fade in and out but is most distracting during a sequence when Wiig and Criss are walking the boardwalk at night.
The only positive worth mentioning is the definition, as the image does display excellent, distinct clarity of household items, buildings, and surrounding foliage and facial complexions has a nice texture to them. Sadly, this is not always consistent either, making the majority of this high-def presentation a mild disappointment.
For a small dramatic comedy such as this, the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack makes a far better impression, providing several excellent moments of rear activity. On various occasions, subtle and well-placed atmospherics fill the background with good directionality and generate a satisfying soundfield. From seagulls squawking overhead to busy city traffic noise, the effects pan between channels discretely and cleanly. Being a character-driven film, however, the majority of the design is focused in the fronts where the listener can enjoy a detailed and extensive mid-range. Imaging is very welcoming and broad exhibiting outstanding clarity in the musical score and a gratifying low-end that provides energy and weight to various song selections. With precise, well-prioritized vocals in the center, the overall lossless mix is a nice surprise indeed.
In spite of some well-intentioned humor and a few genuinely funny moments, 'Girl Most Likely' fails to deliver a satisfying experience since much of its runtime feels by-the-numbers and largely predictable. Good performances from the cast are wasted on a plot that's mostly dull and generic while offering very little inspiration with a hurried and rushed conclusion. The Blu-ray arrives with an equally boring and flat picture quality, but a surprisingly good audio presentation. With a light collection of supplements, the overall package is a rental at best.