Movies about all the different kinds of familial relationships usually involve every dysfunctional aspect you can possibly think of. Well, Addicted to Fresno sets up the dysfunctional aspects right from the start and goes the extra mile and throws in a murder. With a cast that includes Judy Greer, Natasha Lyonne, Aubrey Plaza, and small appearances by Molly Shannon and Ron Livingston, a sister relationship, banding together to keep themselves out of trouble and helping to strengthen their relationship, as well as some coo-coo characters would make this comedy worthwhile. But no, director Jamie Babbit and screenwriter Karey Doretto create an interesting dynamic between the sisters, but the movie never really takes off and feels too haphazard.
Shannon (Judy Greer) has just gotten out of rehab for sex addiction. Moving back to her hometown of Fresno, California, her younger sister Martha (Natasha Lyonne) lets Shannon crash at her place as well as helps her get a job as a maid where she works at Fresno Suites, where they’ve overlooked the fact that Shannon is a registered sex offender. Without even trying to settle in, Shannon finds herself in a deep trouble when her addiction to sex gets her in with one of the hotel guests whom she accidentally killed. Now she and her sister have to work together (something they rarely ever do because of past hostilities toward one another) to try and cover up what happened and find a way to get along.
There are so few movies about female relationships, that it’s disappointing to say that Addicted to Fresno just isn’t one of them. It’s the kind of film that starts off in a way where you’re excited to see where this story and these characters will take you, but then it keeps chugging down the same path, becoming tedious and inconsequential. Judy Greer proves time and time again that her talents are best showcased in a leading role and she thankfully has one here. Her character is very flawed and due for some redemption–from her sister, from herself, from her past–but she isn’t interested in changing or trying to make her life (or her very on-thin-ice relationship with her sister) better. And so her shenanigans, while occasionally entertaining, fail to truly make any kind of impact and she’s hard to sympathize with as well.
Natasha Lyonne is the heat of the duo, safe and secure compared to her sister, Lyonne’s character is the problem-solver. She’s determined to get her sister’s life back on track using everything in her arsenal, even if it means putting what she wants–or rather, who she wants (her gym coach, played by Aubrey Plaza, is constantly showing her interest)–aside. Lyonne and Greer have great chemistry, but there’s something in the story that doesn’t quite click. Instead of arriving at a place where they can really shed some light on past issues that keep being brought up but never resolved, Addicted to Fresno turns into a spectacle of gags, including the killing of a man and the attempted cremation of his body. This is to strengthen the sisters’ relationship? Even the comedy is all over the place and nothing has the ability to strike the right cord. Often ridiculous, the film has a lot of ingredients but lacks the right recipe.
Release Date: September 1 (VOD), in theaters October 2, 2015 | Director: Jamie Babbit | Screenwriter: Karey Dornetto | Cast: Judy Greer, Natasha Lyonne, Aubrey Plaza, Fred Armisen, Jessica St. Clair, Molly Shannon, Michael Hitchcock, Ron Livingston | Genre: Comedy | MPAA Rating: Not Rated