Take the great Kristen Wiig out of the indie comedy Girl Most Likely, and it would be unbearable. But she's here, and in every scene. The question is whether fans will want to watch her struggle to keep a film afloat for 103 minutes.
Wiig plays Imogene Duncan, a once-promising playwright who squandered a fellowship and now finds her life unraveling. Her dreams of marriage, domestic bliss, and a playwriting Tony presented by Cynthia Nixon obviously aren't in the cards. Dumped by her upscale-cad boyfriend and her magazine-editor boss, Imogene stages a cry-for-help suicide and winds up in the care of her estranged mother Zelda (Annette Bening).
And so Imogene finds herself an unwanted house guest in the New Jersey home she's spend a lifetime trying to escape. There, she catches up with her crab-obsessed brother Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald), who appears to be somewhere on the autism spectrum as he works to perfect "the science of physical self-preservation" with mollusk-shell-shaped body armor. Imogene discovers her room's been rented to conspicuously sexy Yale-bred song-and-dance man Lee (Darren Criss), and that her mother has taken up with the disconcerting George Bousche (Matt Dillon), who claims to be a CIA agent with the wisdom of the samurai.
Though there's a distinct indie flavor here (owing in part to directors Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini, who did American Splendor), squint and Girl Most Likely could easily be mistaken any straining studio rom-com with commitment issues when it comes to tone, characterization, and themes. To the extent that Girl Most Likely has anything to say, it's that the angst of family giveth and it taketh away. In the end, and not surprisingly, "there's no place like home"—thus resolving a film-long argument wittily established in the film's opening school-play flashback. Yes, Zelda's unreliable and self-centered, but she has moments of emotional clarity and, unlike Imogene's dad, she's around. Screenwriter Michelle Morgan isn't quite as charitable to Ocean City, New Jersey, which pretty much remains in estimation a dump to abandon for Manhattan (its hateful social graspers aside).
The film's undernourished romance never quite finds its groove (Lee's scripted to be exactly the generic nice, uncomplicated guy Imogene needs just at this moment). Berman and Pulcini's imprint is mostly felt in some surprisingly effective brother-sister poignancy (though it would be more effective if they named the brother's autism), but the humor is scattershot, working to the limited extent that it does due to a strong cast and quirky cameos. As a fan of Wiig—who remains likeably awkward here—I'm glad I saw Girl Most Likely, the kind of movie you root for to get its act together. But I'm equally glad I didn't have to pay to see it. You're liable to enjoy it more if you wait to watch it on your couch.