SXSW Film Review: Fresno

Posted in Film, Reviews, SXSW
By Sam Bathe on 21 Mar 2015

On paper Fresno has a lot of potential. From two TV mainstays, director Jamie Babbit (Girls, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Malcolm in the Middle) and writer Karey Dornetto (Portlandia, Community, Arrested Development), plus an intriguing mostly-female cast that includes Judy Greer, Natasha Lyonne and Aubrey Plaza. But unfortunately Fresno is a mean-spirited farce, with two characters on a never-ending wild goose chase to offend as much of the audience as possible.

Natasha Lyonne’s Martha is a well-meaning white trash lesbian, trying to get her sex-addict, sex-offender sister, Shannon (Greer), back on track. Getting Shannon a job as a maid as her hotel, things don’t go very well on day one. Sleeping with a hotel guest before accidentally killing him when he gets a little over-eager, despite Martha’s help the pair struggle to cover up Shannon’s mishap, keeping the body in the hotel kitchen before stealing the deceased’s van and driving to a crematorium to dispose of the corpse.

There are very selection moments of humour but on the whole Fresno really struggles for laughs. The cold, unforgiving characters make it very difficult to root for anyone, so a film with Shannon and Martha on-screen for 85 minutes was always going to be a stretch.

The duo race around Fresno without a whim or a care, offending anyone and everyone they come into contact with. It’s written to be funny but instead Dornetto’s script is insensitive and crass, laughing at their hotel manager for his learning disability and the deceased’s family for missing him.

Perhaps in other hands Fresno could have been a hilarious dark comedy , but instead Jamie Babbit and Karey Dornetto have made a chronically unfunny farce, harsh and offensive in its tone, inexcusably laughing at those who are worse off than themselves.


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