by Bill Chambers The Wizard of Oz is the paradigm for Kristen Wiig's first starring vehicle since Bridesmaids--though for the sake of managing expectations, it's probably better to think of Imogene as Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini's follow-up to their dire HBO flick Cinema Vérité. The movie opens with the title character as a child playing the lead in an unlikely school production of The Wizard of Oz and lodging the precocious complaint that Dorothy's desire to return to drab Kansas is irrational. Many years later, Imogene is an aspiring/failed playwright in the Laura Linney-in-The Savages mold reduced to staging a suicide tableau in a last-ditch effort to win back her ex-boyfriend (Brian Petsos). The frenemy (June Diane Raphael, who's in every goddamn movie like this) who finds her instead calls 9-1-1, and Imogene, thanks to the intervention of the Sitcom Fairy, is forced to serve out her mandatory psych stay at home--specifically, her childhood home in Atlantic City, where her man-child brother Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald) still lives with their gambling-addict mother (Annette Bening), mom's weird boyfriend (Matt Dillon), and Lee (Darren Criss), the young boarder who moved into Imogene's old room.
There's enough indie quirk in Imogene to choke a Sundance programmer, including a metallic, wifi-enabled shell that mollusk-obsessed Ralph dons before venturing into the big city, job titles like "Jordan Knight impersonator," and a character who's been struck by lightning so many times that he has to wear a wetsuit during thunderstorms. Imogene of course rebounds with second-stringer Lee, who says all those sweetly-encouraging things the Good Suitor says in romcoms, although the filmmakers, to their credit, defy a certain tradition by not immediately breaking them up post-coitus. Too, a lengthy third-act digression in which Imogene, Ralph, and Lee depart AC for a rendezvous in New York is admirably novelistic. The movie could've gotten by without it, yet it doesn't feel like simply another permutation of the Apatow-company problem of not knowing when to quit.But the Oz parallels also become painfully literal in the final third of Imogene, complete with our would-be Dorothy confronting the Wicked Witch (Raphael) and fleeing a brownstone in ruby-red heels after getting a peek behind the proverbial curtain at her own personal Wizard. (In evoking Tom Cruise's abode in Eyes Wide Shut, this part of the film makes you appreciate just how imaginatively Stanley Kubrick wove an Oz allegory into the fabric of his traumnovelle.) Ralph is obviously the Cowardly Lion, while Lee, in his puppyish loyalty, is Toto. And Imogene eventually does overstay its welcome, with a tacked-on action-comedy climax that seems like the "boy" ending following the girly, emotional one, as if to satisfy both sexes of a directing duo that mostly disproves the adage about two heads being better than one. Programme: Special Presentation