EIFF 2015 – Addicted to Fresno
Jamie Babbit’s Addicted to Fresno -or simply Fresno as it was known when I saw it at the Edinburgh International Film Festival- follows a recovering sex addict and her sister who get in way over their head after a relapse accidentally ends with a death that the sisters scramble to cover up.
Judy Greer plays the sex addict sister Shannon who works with her sister Martha (Natasha Lyonne) as a cleaner in a hotel. Shannon is portrayed as something of an antihero with many unlikeable characteristics. She’s completely unsympathetic to the feelings of anyone else, lacks patience for what other people consider important, casually insulting to the point of being massively offensive and has absolutely no desire to recover from her addiction.
It all feels a bit of a shame for Martha who has put everything on the line to help her sister out when she has no desire to help herself. Martha is played with an almost naive optimism despite her hopeless circumstances. She is in a job where she has to deal with the worst messes humanity can create and has to keep a constant eye on her sister who is driven to misbehave at every possible opportunity.
One thing this film does really well is the chemistry between the two leads. Natasha Lyonne and Judy Greer are always believable as sisters and there’s a well written sense of dysfunction to their relationship. This mostly consists of Shannon doing something horrible and Martha biting her lip and getting on with the business of clearing it up.
This is especially apparent when one of Shannon’s many relapses causes the accidental death of a hotel guest. Shannon claims that the guy was raping her and Martha believes her. Instead of doing the sensible thing and claiming self defense they attempt to dispose of the body and hilarity ensues.
At least this is what happens in theory. In practice we get scene after scene of increasingly cringeworthy hijinks attempting to force laughs out of the mouths of the viewer. None of it really works as the film confuses being awkward for being hilarious. Never is it more apparent when a really questionable young Jewish kid launches into a foul mouthed rap that completely fails to land.
I found myself constantly questioning why the characters were doing anything and found things increasingly less believable as time went on. Given the stupidity of the situation and how unlikeable Shannon is I couldn’t root for her to succeed because I really didn’t want her to.
If anything, I felt sympathetic towards Martha who really gets the worst of the situation given what she has to do to protect her lying sister. She seemed a little too strong willed to put up with Shannon’s nonsense but I wanted her to be removed from the situation completely given that none of it was her fault.
I did like the romantic subplot between Martha and her personal trainer played by Aubrey Plaza. There’s a certain authenticity to this and the film never makes a big deal out of it being a lesbian romance which is very much appreciated. Treating these pairings as a normal thing is definitely very progressive and that much counts in this film’s favour.
Personally I don’t recommend this one as I just didn’t find it funny. I found Shannon too unlikeable to follow and really didn’t want her to succeed. I liked Martha well enough but didn’t find her especially engaging either. Don’t go out of your way to see this one.