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MOVIE REVIEW: Wiig's talent is wasted in 'Girl Most Likely'

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Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening star in "Girl Most Likely." (Special Photo)

GIRL MOST LIKELY

(PG-13)

1 star out of 4

One of the few ex-cast members to seemingly avoid the dreaded “Saturday Night Live” curse, Kristen Wiig exceeded everyone’s expectations with her one-two writing-acting punch in “Bridesmaids.” The raucous and ribald 2011 action chick-flick garnered two Oscar nominations, made a bunch of money and established Wiig as a major player.

After treading water with a supporting role in the middling “Friends with Kids,” Wiig is back as the lead in another comedy aimed squarely at over-25 females and it’s as shockingly wretched as “Bridesmaids” was surprisingly excellent.

As with most screen catastrophes, the fault with “Girl” lies almost entirely with the script penned by sophomore feature scribe Michelle Morgan. Wanting to be both art-house edgy and mainstream comfy, “Girl” is neither and inhabits a netherworld of cinematic purgatory where it will languish for about a week and then head even further south.

It was doomed from the start. With not a single major or sub-major studio interested, it was independently funded and overseen by 19 (19!) different producers, did the festival circuit, went through at least one date and name change and has sat on the shelf for close to a year. As quickly as “Bridesmaids” made Wiig a star, “Girl” could sink her just as fast. The “SNL” curse seems to be alive and in perfect working order after all.

To add to the irony, Wiig’s character Imogene (also the film’s original title) plays a writer for the stage who won some award and accompanying grant not so long ago yet frittered all of it away through a combination and complacency and writer’s block. Thanks to her Wall Street boyfriend, Imogene has been able to more or less fake it, maintain a certain lifestyle and remain part of a circle of snobby, limousine liberal socialites.

When the boyfriend jettisons Imogene, she has a devastating, totally self-inflicted meltdown which leads to a faux-suicide attempt, a brief hospital stay and the actualization of her worst fear. Because the booby hatch is beyond capacity, Imogene must be retrieved by her closest living known relative. In this case it is her gambling-addicted mother Zelda (Annette Bening) whom she hasn’t spoken to for years. Not only does she have to move home to lowly Ocean City, N.J., she must live in the basement in a make-shift “sheet” bedroom and listen while Zelda has jungle sex with her shady boyfriend George (Matt Dillon).

Concluding the story still doesn’t have quite enough “quirk,” Morgan includes a brother who is obsessed with mollusks and a stranger who is renting Imogene’s old room. He went to Yale but now barely makes a living as part of a Backstreet Boys cabaret cover band.

Light years removed from their near-masterpiece “American Splendor,” married co-directors Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman approach the material with a fish-out-of-water/blinded-by-the-headlights, punch-drunk type of desperation that is beyond inept and embarrassing.

Drifting aimlessly from one incoherent sitcom-grade scene to the next without any sense of rhythm or panache, the directors (like the entire cast) flail about and try to render the inert, D.O.A. material as best as possible. In addition, the filmmakers make this particular chunk of seaside Jersey come off looking like a day-glow flea-market and we know it’s purposeful because everything shot in New York City is pristine and fashion-shoot impeccable.

Based on the data found on a couple of the bigger movie websites, Wiig has nothing major in the pipeline; just some voice-over parts and another low-budget indie (“The Skeleton Twins”) co-starring her former “SNL” performer Bill Hader. The first thing Wiig needs to do is to get a new agent and look for some supporting and/or character parts that will take advantage of her angular approach and (now fading) comedic timing. If she keeps playing the lead in movies like this, she’ll be little more than a trivia question by mid-2014. (Roadside Attractions)