Set in Atlantic City and New York City, viewed metaphorically here as Oz and Kansas, respectively, "Girl Most Likely" goes a little bit wrong in nearly every scene, its stridently quirky characters never quite making sense together in the same universe, let alone the same movie.
At least the people playing the quirks masquerading as people have talent. Kristin Wiig, our national standard-bearer for droll comic insecurity, plays Imogene, the sad sack at the center, a once-promising, now-languishing New York playwright who fakes a suicide attempt after a break-up and ends up in the wobbly custody of Zelda, her Atlantic City mother (Annette Bening).
Imogene's childhood home is now a boarding house; the hunkiest and most conveniently available of the guys is a Backstreet Boy impersonator portrayed by Darren Criss. The motifs in Michelle Morgan's script relate, with dogged repetition, to the notion of going home again and coming out of one's shell. The shell's literal in the case of Imogene's shut-in brother (Christopher Fitzgerald, too adorable by half), who spends much of the film wearing a human-sized version of a crustacean exoskeleton. This comes in handy when a Romanian mobster shows up, in pursuit of Zelda's alleged CIA op boyfriend (Matt Dillon), in a climax of unusually clumsy slapstick.
Directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini search in vain for the right mixture of tones, and although Wiig has her moments, she and her co-stars (including Bob Balaban as the Oz-like father) can't find it either. The "Saturday Night Live" alum and "Bridesmaids" co-writer and star is a wizard at any scenario involving a brittle but sympathetic character coping with the slings and arrows of life. No one throws away a punch line more stealthily than Wiig. She and Bening make sense as daughter and mother, even if they're from different worlds. But "Girl Most Likely" is a cut or two below the kind of quirk that supports, rather than smothers, the people on screen.
'Girl Most Likely' -- 2 stars
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for language and sexual content)
Running time: 1:43
Opens: Friday at AMC River East 21