SXSW FILM 2015
By Don Simpson | March 22, 2015
Director: Jamie Babbit
Writer: Karey Dornetto
Starring: Judy Greer, Natasha Lyonne, Aubrey Plaza, Clea DuVall, Ron Livingston, Allison Tolman, Fred Armisen, Molly Shannon, Jessica St. Clair, Michael Hitchcock, Malcolm Barrett, Maria Olsen, William R Phillips, Teresa R. Parker, John Roohinian
On paper, a female-centric cinematic universe that showcases sex addicts, lesbians, a raunchy bar mitzvah rap and hundreds of purple didlos sounds just about perfect. With the directorial chair filled by Jamie Babbit (But I’m a Cheerleader, Itty Bitty Titty Committee) and a cast featuring Judy Greer and Natasha Lyonne as the protagonists, as well as Aubrey Plaza, Ron Livingston, Fred Armisen and Molly Shannon in supporting roles, Addicted To Fresno seems destined for comedic — if not, feminist — gold. With this impeccable pedigree, what could possibly go wrong? The answer is pretty much everything.
Shannon (Judy Greer) is a recovering sex addict who has been released from rehab to live with her comparatively stable but equally codependent sister, Martha (Natasha Lyonne). In a halfhearted attempt to get over her ex-girlfriend, Martha fixates on getting Shannon back on her feet, landing Shannon a job working side-by-side with her as maids at a local hotel.
Not able to keep their hormonal desires in check, things spiral totally out of control for Shannon and Martha. They desperately need to discard of a dead body, while simultaneously being blackmailed by Capitalistic pet-cemetery owners (Fred Armisen, Alison Tolman). Somehow, this predicament leads them to attempt a nonsensical menagerie of robberies.
Addicted To Fresno strives to take a feminist bent on the populist films of Judd Apatow, Paul Feig and Jason Reitman, yet Babbit’s film is a bit too ridiculous for its own good. Taking an overwhelmingly sardonic perspective, Fresno seeks to make fun of everyone and everything, yet all of its criticisms — especially those of the titular suburb — fall embarrassingly flat. By refusing to ground itself in reality, Addicted To Fresno never allows the audience to understand its protagonists’ motivations and actions. That is all well and good for an absurdist comedy, but the sloppy and uninspired comedic writing of Fresno does not succeed in that realm either.