Greetings again from the darkness. It's not quite a unicorn, but it
seems fair to call it a White Harbour Porpoise. Yes, it's that rare to
see a Comedy movie written by a woman, directed by a woman, starring
women in a story about women. And it's that rarity which makes it all
the more disappointing when the finished product doesn't match the
The cast is loaded with funny people, many of whom are best known for
their work on TV. However, that's not what makes this feel like an
aimless TV sitcom straining too hard to make us laugh, often through
cheap shock value. The movie leaves us with the feeling that writer
Karey Dornetto ("Portlandia") and director Jamie Babbit (But I'm a
Cheerleader, "Gilmore Girls") have spent too many hours studying the
work of Judd Apatow, rather than letting their own voices speak. We are
teased with glimpses, but mostly just left wanting.
On the bright side, Judy Greer finally gets a lead role after seemingly
hundreds of support roles where she has often been the best thing about
a movie. Yet somehow the filmmakers manage to dull Ms. Greer's natural
glow as she plays Shannon, a registered sex offender with little desire
to break her sex addiction, or even become the least bit likable. The
very talented Natasha Lyonne plays Martha, Shannon's younger lesbian
sister who is her personality polar opposite, yet never can quite
escape the "bad luck" following her around.
Martha decides to make Shannon's recovery her mission in life, and
secures her a job so they can work together as maids at a local motel.
What follows is an accidental murder, a frantic attempt to dispose of
the body, a mentally challenged housekeeping supervisor, multiple
instances of sexual confusion, a sex shop hold-up, blackmailing pet
cemetery owners, a profane rapping boy at his bar mitzvah, an
inappropriate relationship with a therapist that breaks up a marriage,
and a running gag with a chubby hotel guest in a Hawaiian shirt
carrying a little dog. All of that zaniness leads to a
disproportionately few number of laughs, although we do get a terrific
Cousin It impersonation and an extremely rare (maybe a first ever?)
What's lacking here, despite the best efforts of Ms. Greer and Ms.
Lyonne, is any semblance of humanity or realism
comedy. We just never make any connection with the main characters. The
supporting cast provides numerous diversions and feature the familiar
faces of Ron Livingston (the therapist mentioned above), an
underutilized Aubrey Plaza, Molly Shannon, the duo of Fred Armisen and
Alison Tolman playing opportunistic small business owners, Jessica St
Clair as one of the more emotional front desk clerks you'll ever see,
Jon Daly as one of the more unfortunate characters, and Malcolm Barrett
as Shannon's latest love interest/poet.
Of course, in keeping with the film's title there is a never-ending
stream of insults directed at the city of Fresno. If that much
attention had been paid to the sister relationship and the forming of
characters, perhaps the comedy would have been more effective. Instead,
if you are all set on watching sisters working together in the clean-up
business, the better recommendation would be Sunshine Cleaning.