With her comedic instincts, impeccable timing and hilarious deadpan reactions, Kristen Wiig should be the "Girl Most Likely" to save this dismal, heavy-handed domestic comic drama from a bunch of inert, irritatingly quirky characters and a coagulated plot.
Even the talented "SNL" and "Bridesmaids" star has limits, and Wiig reaches them early on in "Girl Most Likely."
"Girl Most Likely"★ ½
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Bob Balaban, Matt Dillon
Directed by: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini
Other: A Lionsgate Films release. Rated PG-13 for sexual situations and language. 103 minutes
She plays once-promising New York playwright Imogene Duncan, whose longtime boyfriend dumps her in a taxi.
Then she loses her magazine job as a writer of encapsulated show descriptions for having an opinion.
Imogene becomes depressed, yet in the midst of emotional upheaval, she finds theatrical inspiration.
A faked suicide attempt backfires, and Imogene can't persuade the doctors that her extremely convincing suicide note was just for her boyfriend's benefit.
"Apparently, I should be a professional suicide note writer!" Imogene quips.
Imogene's botched stunt places her into the protective custody of her estranged, not-so-lovably quirky, gambling-addicted mother Zelda (Annette Bening) in soulless Ocean City.
She lives there with a possibly self-deluded CIA operative named George Boosh (I'm not making this up) played by Matt Dillon in full skeezoid mode. That's not his real name, of course, but he has to throw assassins off his trail, you know?
Imogene can't understand why Mom would rent her bedroom out to a handsome guy named Lee (Darren Criss), who performs in a Backstreet Boys cover band and apparently has a thing for older women with hilarious deadpan reactions.
She also wonders why her dimwitted kid brother Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald) never left home, but stayed around perfecting his ultimate invention: the exoskeleton protective shell for humans. (Def-Con 4 metaphor alert!)
What passes for a thin plot starts when Mom lets it slip that Imogene's father is not nearly as deceased as she led her daughter to believe.
This prompts Imogene and Ralph to venture into the Big Apple on a mission to find their father (Chicago's own Bob Balaban), an emotionally constipated paternal figure emanating all the warmth of a Kenmore freezer.
Nothing in "Girl Most Likely" feels genuine, spontaneous or lifelike.
Screenwriter Michelle Morgan creates a student playwright's idea of a meaningful, comically dramatic indie picture, employing a parade of strained and strange characters who occasionally strike a comic note or two in sheer defiance of this material.
Co-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (who gave us "American Splendor") utilize musical sledgehammers to drive home the obvious, as when poor Imogene, freshly dumped and fired, wanders around New York not knowing what to do, and oh-so-meaninigful song lyrics inform us, "I just don't know what to do with myself ..."
By the time this movie ties up the plot threads into a false and forced finale, this "Girl" is most likely to disappoint.