Sex addiction, the grotty debris found under the sheets in dirty motel rooms, baskets of bobbing purple dildos, rape jokes. Yes, women can do comedy. They can also do sensitive, subtle depictions of relationships. But not necessarily in the same movie.
With their “Addicted to Fresno,” director Jamie Babbit and screenwriter Karey Dornetto join Amy Schumer, Kristen Wiig, and Leslye Headland as female filmmakers who do not fear being offensive. In their case, however, they have a hard time being anything but.
Certainly, the residents of Fresno, Calif., will not be pleased. This Fresno is so awful that a pair of blackmailers need the money to fulfill their dream of moving to Detroit.
Not only do siblings Shannon (Judy Greer) and Martha (Natasha Lyonne) have to live there, but they also have the worst jobs in town — housekeepers at the tacky Fresno Suites. Martha is a Candide-like lesbian smitten with a fickle lover. Now she must also baby-sit Shannon, a former academic down and out because of her sex addiction. The motel job, which Shannon helped get her, is the first day of the rest of her life.
Faced with that prospect, Shannon indulges her impulses at the first opportunity (Greer excels at demonstrating the physical and psychological absurdities of the act of love). Despite therapy (she is also sleeping with her therapist), she pounces on and accidentally kills the resident letch (can we please retire the mullet as character shorthand?). Since her classification as a sex offender eliminates the possibility of claiming rape as a defense, she and Martha decide to ditch the evidence by cremating the stiff at the local pet cemetery.
Laughing yet? I confess I was at times. But then I found parts of “Tammy” funny, too. Nonetheless, strung together with a minimal attempt at building comic momentum, the routines get repetitious.
Greer and Lyonne play off each other well; the combination of readily corruptible innocence and reluctantly innocent corruption elevate the material. Their badinage and interactions suggest a genuine sisterly relationship, with a long history of
resentments, betrayals, and co-dependence. Too bad the filmmakers try too hard at making you laugh, and not hard enough at making you feel.
ADDICTED TO FRESNO
Directed by Jamie Babbit. Written by Karey Dornetto. Starring Natasha Lyonne and Judy Greer. At Brattle Theatre. Running time 85 minutes. Unrated (raunchy comedy, absurd sexual situations).