Judy Greer Natasha Lyonne Aubrey Plaza Ron Livingston Clea DuVall Fred Armison Molly Shannon
You know the old saying; When you ask for something, remember to be specific. In 2014 the lack of diversity and gender equality was one of the most preached on items in the movie biz. From what I am seeing at SXSW it’s as if Hollywood went into panic mode and started firing off all sorts of female driven films, just to plug the leak. What we should have asked for was strong, passionate, diverse and well written female characters. Fresno is a perfect example of a film, a comedy, that instead of the typical vulgar, macho, sex comedy, those roles are replaced by women, lots of women in the film, only for the same of having female characters. It’s just too bad Fresno is an unfunny, resentful, poorly constructed comedy that runs out of steam before it even gets started.
Shannon (Greer) has just been released from prison and rehab doing a sentence for sex addiction. Now registered as a sex offender, she not only moves in with her sister Martha (Lyonne), the sisters work as maids for the Fresno Inn. Martha is the upbeat, motor mouth, positive outlook sister who is content with her low paying job and calling herself a home owner. She can’t seem to find the right girlfriend and talks about her sister and ex so much she misses the opportunity at a self-defense class where her instructor (Plaza) is coming on strong. Unable to control her addiction, Shannon retreats to the local hotel pimp and when Martha thinks her sister is being raped, they are all of a sudden in need of discarding a body.
How overplayed is the accidental death scenario where the culprits, guilty or not, make every wrong move. It’s a plot device that almost always ruins a film’s momentum because of the situation and distraction it brings to the characters. Fresno starts off defining these women as small town losers struggling though issues, it’s interesting and promising, even the dark side of motel clean up looks to play a big part in the story. Judy Greer (The Descendants), until now, has impressed me with her style of comedy and wispy attitude. Finally she gets a leading role only to be at the horrible disadvantage of a terrible and lazy script that chases everything but witty comedy. Lyonne’s character brings more dimension to a lesbian character than we typically see but as I mentioned is derailed and distracted by the dead body problem.
The comedy is so dry and the subject matter so vial there isn’t anything for the audience to root for or admire, we just watch these two fumble towards self-destruction. First time screenwriter Karey Dornetto doesn’t give these women, or the supporting female characters much substance. Fresno, California is portrayed as a mosh pit of losers, poor, and unable to escape on their situation. SNL alum Molly Shannon has two scenes and frankly they are the best in the film, simply because she is naturally funny and uncomplicated by the annoying plot choices. Fresno has no life to it and the characters are not the type of people you want to even spend 90 minutes with.
Final Thought – Female actors simply plugged into traditionally, vile, obnoxious male comedy characters doesn’t help the lack of work for actresses.
By: Dustin Chase