Overview: A “recovering” sex addict, Shannon (Judy Greer), and her sister, Martha (Natasha Lyonne), work through their issues while trying to dispose of the body of a man Shannon accidentally killed in the course of her work as a hotel maid. Gravitas Ventures; 2015; Rated R; 85 minutes.
Another Bridesmaids?: Perhaps it is unfair to compare every comedy starring women to Bridesmaids, but it set the tone for every so-called “female” comedy to follow–and, disappointingly, this one does not quite live up to the standard. Director Jamie Babbit’s Addicted to Fresno incorporates classic “hide the body” farce with dick jokes, lesbian jokes, and forced sentimentality. By the end of the film, the viewer is expected to believe that Shannon has changed, and that her sister, Martha, has learned to be happy, but the supposed moment of change comes as a surprise, leaving one wondering what the point of the film really was–because it isn’t remarkably funny, and isn’t remarkably touching, either.
There are moments…: All of this is not to say that the movie is not sometimes enjoyable to watch. There are a couple of laugh-out-loud moments, and Judy Greer delivers a pretty good performance alongside Natasha Lyonne. A few other recognizable faces make an appearance–a predictably odd Fred Armisen as an owner of a pet crematorium, a somewhat wooden Aubrey Plaza, and, strangely, the woman that played the crazy dance coach from Donnie Darko (Beth Grant), who delivers a one-line non-sequitur over the grave of a pet.
…but not many of them: A pretty good cast cannot carry an entire movie, however. Ultimately, it feels like this film had two goals: to be a comedy starring women being vulgar and getting themselves into absurd predicaments, and to demonstrate the evolution of a strained relationship between two very different sisters. In trying to meet the first goal, writer Katey Dornetto and director Jamie Babbitt had their lead characters talk about sex, drugs, rape, and murder with a lightness atypical of women on screen, but the humor was often lazy, as though they could think of nothing more than dildos, lesbians, and Jews when they thought of “women,” “comedy,” and “Fresno” together. Their attempt at meeting the second goal resulted in a couple slapdash romances penned in for each sister, and a predictable reconciliation following a breach of their sisterly bond.
Overall: Coming from screenwriter Karey Dornetto, whose resume includes episodes of Community and Portlandia, Addicted to Fresno is disappointing and unfocused. There are funny moments (who doesn’t laugh at a pile of rubbery dildos?), but in the end, this film falls short of its potential.