Fresno (Jamie Babbit) – EIFF 2015


Natasha Lyonne reunites with the director of cult favourite But I’m a Cheerleader for another comic look at suburban American life. Lyonne plays Martha, a housekeeper in a Holiday Inn style hotel who gets her troubled sister a job working alongside her. Shannon (Judy Greer) is just out of court appointed-rehab for sex addiction after being caught in flagrante with the headmaster of the school she taught at by some pupils. This has earned her a place on the sex offenders list and a lifetime ban from teaching. Shannon causes chaos in the quietly ordered life of Martha who stayed in Fresno to care for their now deceased parents and now lives alone. She takes self-defence classes at a local gym where she mooches over an ex-girlfriend and ignores the advances of her martial arts instructor (Aubrey Plaza). Martha’s life probably needs shaking up and a crisis is provided by Shannon’s ill-fated sexual encounter with a mulleted lothario sets up a farcical plot which sees the sisters trying to dispose of a dead body.

Some people may find Karey Dornetto’s screenplay pushes the limits of acceptability with jokes around certain subjects but she’s not making light of them. Instead she’s highlighting Shannon’s irresponsibility and complete lack of regard for others. Greer, whose distinctive voice may be familiar to fans of animated show Archer on which she plays the deranged secretary Cheryl, is fantastic here in a rare lead role. Jamie Babbit and Natasha Lyonne have been doing great work on television; Babbit directing episodes of shows like Arrested Development and Girls and Lyonne on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black but it’s great to see them back on cinema screens. There’s a strong supporting cast too with cameos from Portlandia co-creator Fred Arnisen, Allison Tolman, Molly Shannon, and But I’m a Cheerleader co-star Clea DuVall.

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