Addicted to Fresno
dir Jamie Babbit
scr Karey Dornetto
prd Andrea Sperling, Stephanie Meurer
with Judy Greer, Natasha Lyonne, Aubrey Plaza, Ron Livingston, Malcolm Barrett, Jessica St Clair, Fred Armisen, Allison Tolman, Jon Daly, Molly Shannon, Kumail Nanjiani, Beth Grant
release US 2.Oct.15, UK 9.Oct.15
15/US 1h25
Addicted to Fresno
Cleaning up their mess: Lyonne and Greer

plaza livingston tolman
edinburgh film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Addicted to Fresno With a deadpan tone, this dark-but-silly comedy observes the small insults of everyday life in a way that's both amusing and resonant. Director Babbit cleverly depicts the inanities of life in small-town California, while mixing goofy antics with pitch-black plot turns. Although it's all a bit too ridiculous to properly engage with.

Following a stint in rehab, Shannon (Greer) returns home to Fresno and gets a job cleaning hotel rooms with her sister Martha (Lyonne). Shannon is continuing her affair with her counsellor (Livingston), but doesn't want him to leave his wife. Then when she thinks she has accidentally killed a low-life sex maniac (Daly), she and Martha hatch an ill-thought plan to dispose of the body. But their accomplices (Arminsen and Tolman) blackmail them, so they decide to rob a sex shop to get the cash. Illicit dildo dealings and wacky slapstick ensue.

Babbit and screenwriter Dornetto are less successful when they shift from snappy character-based humour into a caper comedy with gross-out overtones. Frankly, trying to generate laughs from rape and murder is always risky. And this story also throws in extortion, adultery and larceny. Meanwhile, the screenplay strains to find some moving sentiment by throwing romance, family grief and other serious issues into the mayhem. Every now and then something sticks, but it feels rather frantic.

Greer and Lyonne make a solid double-act, although their characters are too opportunistic and selfish to be very sympathetic. Shannon definitely hasn't recovered from her sex-addiction, while Martha isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, messing up her life by trying to help someone who doesn't want her help. It also doesn't help that their narrative travels along the usual film-school plot structure, gyrating through a series of predictable highs and lows on its way to an ending that thankfully isn't wholly expected.

In between the zany farcical scenes, there are some moments that are very nicely written and played, including the flirtation between Martha and her personal trainer (Plaza), plus an unexpected spark of attraction between Shannon and a helpful bellhop (Barrett). There's also a terrific stream of cameos, including Shannon as a crazed Russian, Nanjiani as a fellow addict and the great Grant as a wise stranger. And as it explores the way people use addiction as an excuse for bad behaviour, the film actually finds something important to say.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, violence 23.Sep.15

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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall