'Fresno': Film Review

Courtesy of SXSW
Makes one nostalgic for 'Weekend at Bernie's'

Two sisters working as hotel maids try to dispose of the corpse of a recent guest.

Small-screen comic talent is all over Fresno, with key players from series including Parks & Rec, Arrested Development and Portlandia teaming up for a tale of two sisters stuck with a hard-to-dispose-of dead body. The feature, sadly, exhibits none of the smarts or agility that fuel those series, with supporting players like Fred Armisen, Ron Livingston and Aubrey Plaza seeming to be acting in different movies, each of which protagonists Natasha Lyonne and Judy Greer rush through in a sex-and-scatology-joke haze. Theatrical prospects are poor, though the cast will generate some VOD clicks.

Lyonne and Greer are sisters left alone in the world after, as Karey Dornetto's script so delicately puts it, the death of a mother with "two tits full of cancer." Greer's Shannon is a sex addict just out of rehab but still screwing her therapist; Martha (Lyonne), trying to help Shannon pull her life together, gets her a job in the dumpy hotel where she works.

Martha's just about to catch Shannon boinking a long-term hotel guest (John Daly) when the man dies, leaving the sisters with more of a mess than they'd expected to be cleaning up today. The hijinks that ensue involve the kind of painfully forced outrageousness that leads to sentences like this: In an effort to raise the money required to bribe pet-cemetery workers to cremate the body, the sisters rob a sex shop and end up trying to sell a bin full of purple dildos at a gathering of female athletes.

Along the way, the ostensibly more level-headed sister, Martha, stalks an old girlfriend while ignoring the advances of a woman (Plaza) few sane lesbians or straight men would reject. She eventually comes to her senses, opening herself up to a healthy relationship. But the movie's own play for take-it-down-a-notch emotional grounding, after so much bad-taste blundering, meets with considerably less success.

Production company: Gamechanger Films

Cast: Natasha Lyonne, Judy Greer, Malcolm Barrett, Jessica St. Clair, Fred Armisen, Molly Shannon, Michael Hitchcock, Ron Livingston, Allison Tolman, Aubrey Plaza

Director: Jamie Babbit

Screenwriter: Karey Dornetto

Producers: Andrea Sperling, Stephanie Meurer

Executive producers: Mynette Louie, Julie Parker Benello, Dan Cogan, Geralyn Dreyfous, Wendy Ettinger, Patty West, Nick Horbaczewski

Director of photography: Jeffrey Waldron

Production designer: Theresa Guleserian

Costume designer: Charlese Antoinette Jones

Editor: Suzanne Spangler

Music: Nathan Matthew David

Casting director: Richard Hicks

No rating, 84 minutes

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