Fresno (2015)


Natasha Lyonne and Judy Greer play Martha and Shannon, respectively, in this tired comedy that tries to set itself out as something different because it dares to have a main character who is a sex addict. It’s not anything different. In fact, peel away the dressing and you’ll find a template that has been used for hundreds of movies over the past decade or so alone. And many of them are better than this.

Martha is trying to help Shannon straighten out her life. Shannon has been in rehab for sex addiction, a problem that is played strictly for laughs throughout the movie, and is now rolling her eyes at the prospect of working as a hotel cleaner alongside her sister. She’s unsympathetic, she’s quick to cut people down with a well-placed witty insult, and she’s always eyeing up potential mates. Basically, Judy Greer plays the quintessential “let’s see if Judy Greer’s available” role. Anyway, after a sexual tryst ends in disaster, the sisters have to work together to clean up one big mess, and I don’t mean the kind of mess that can be handled with soap and hot water.

Writer Karey Dornetto keeps things going at a decent pace, and sprinkles the occasional one-liner here and there that prompts a laugh. But everything ends up in an unsatisfying middle ground, not dark enough to be more interesting while not funny enough to be more outright entertaining. It’s interesting to notice that the funniest moments (therapy sessions, a completely inappropriate rap from a young Jewish boy) feel as if they could have been lifted from an entirely different movie.

Director Jamie Babbit directs with a distinct lack of flair or ambition, leaving everything in the hands of the cast, who are thankfully up to the task of at least trying to make a silk purse from a pig’s ear. As impossible as that is, they try.

Lyonne and Greer work well together as the two sisters who love and hate each other in that quick-changing way that only siblings can seem to carry throughout their lives. Malcolm Barrett and Aubrey Plaza are both very sweet, with the former being an unusually decent guy interested in Greer’s character and the latter being interested in Lyonne, and Ron Livingston and Molly Shannon add to the fun. It’s just a shame that the film doesn’t give them even better material to work with.

This will help you pass 90 minutes easily enough. Definitely check it out if it comes your way and you don’t have anything else available. But I certainly wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see it.

Fresno was screened at EIFF 2015.


Film Rating: ★★½☆☆

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