“Siblings can really sink each other.” These are not words commonly heard or realized often, but perhaps ones that can be true given particular circumstances. It’s a theme that rings factual throughout this film, however unrealistic the scenarios.
Addicted to Fresno, directed by Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader), follows two sisters in Shannon (Judy Greer, Grandma), a seemingly recovered sex addict who has very little moral compass, and Martha (Natasha Lyonne, Orange is the New Black), an eternal optimist who is always going over the top to help her sister with her issues and devotes very little attention to her own well-being. The two work as maids at a local hotel in their hometown of Fresno–a city where not much happens and the people there hate it, yet can’t seem to leave. Shannon’s antics come to a nadir when she accidentally kills a man. She and her sister attempt to get rid of the mess, which will prove to either help or harm their already rocky relationship.
It’s definitely an anti-sibling movie–or at least it wants to be. I think mainly it strives to show us that the world is not as black and white as we have been brought up to believe. Society tells us that as long as we hang on to our family we’ll be okay in the end. But sometimes they’re the ones holding us back. The small town trope plays well on this whole “being held back” theme. The girls are two completely opposite personalities, yet they both manage to become complacent in a city that doesn’t offer much for either of them.
While the film is never quite laugh-out-loud hilarious, it does a good job of keeping the tone jovial throughout with black comedy nuances and some enjoyable sequences thrown in–like a 13-year-old bar mitzvah boy performing a highly vulgar song filled with Jewish puns in front of his gasping relatives.
We get some nice scenes from the supporting cast as well, including Fred Armisen (Portlandia) as Gerald, the owner of a pet cemetery, who doesn’t get nearly enough screen time, and Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) as Kelly, Martha’s personal trainer, who gets plenty of screen time but is mostly underutilized. Solid scenes from Molly Shannon(Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), Malcolm Barrett (Dear White People), and Kumail Nanjiani (Hot Tub Time Machine 2) are mostly what make this film watchable. The timing of the two leads compliments their chemistry well, but they are given very little in terms of laughable material. I understand that it’s supposed to be somewhat of a black comedy, but it never fully commits. It’s not obvious enough and most people may just chalk it up to being unfunny. The storyline is intriguing enough and I like most of the decisions that it happens to make, but if we’re going to be sitting down to view a comedy we need to know what we’re watching.
Verdict: 3 out of 5
Although a little uneven in terms of comedic tone, the laughs are there if you know where to find them. The story is one that hasn’t really been told in quite this fashion before and the themes are relatable regardless of the impractical lengths of which it chooses to showcase them by. It helps that both characters are deep enough to attach ourselves to. It’s not a terrible film by any means, it just speaks to a very specific crowd. And since its role as a comedy wears a bit thin, we may be tempted to dismiss the story as merely trivial.