Sick Girl Movie Review
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They say that laughter is the best medicine, but if that’s the case then Sick Girl is dead on arrival. A purported comedy, someone must have forgotten to tell first-time writer and director, Jennifer Cram, that comedies require jokes. Without them, they’re dramas. And whether this film is labeled a comedy or drama, it is one thing and one thing only: bad. Very, very bad.
Sick Girl follows a group of friends as they grow up and grow apart over a few decades. Opening to Wren (Nina Dobrev), Cece (Stephanie Koenig), Laurel (Sherry Cola), and Jill (Hayley Magnus), the girls in their late teens or early 20s jam out in the car to Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Goin Down.” This two-minute scene of them laughing and acting silly is supposed to tell us it’s the early aughts and also highlight how close these girls are before fast-forwarding 15 years later. In 2023, Cece, Laurel, and Jill have all matured into adulthood but Wren is seemingly stuck in a rut. Well, rut may be too gentle of a term – the girl is a hot mess. Working at a crafts store, Wren spends her free time either getting drunk and partying or sitting on the couch alone watching Spanish novelas while her friends balance successful careers, family, and health habits.
As Wren watches each of her friends move forward in life, she finds herself being left further and further behind, too busy for her and growing tired of her immature antics. Out of desperation one evening, Wren blurts out that she cancer and suddenly she finds herself surrounded by the love of her friends once again. The once insecure Wren finally has what she has craved for some time but at what cost? How long can she keep up the lie before everything comes crashing down around her?
Sadly for us, it takes some time. Along the way, we’re introduced to unlikeable characters, Wren’s parents Carol (The Goldberg‘s Wendy McLendon-Covey) and Fred (Life in Pieces‘ Dan Bakkedahl) – two actors who have played similar roles on much funnier sitcoms; Wren’s boss, Malcolm (Ray McKinnon); and Leo (Brandon Mychal Smith) who serves as the moral compass. Leo and Wren meet when she attends a cancer support group but Leo, unlike Wren, is actually battling cancer. Once he discovers the truth, he helps Wren better understand the errors of her ways and exacts a bit of revenge.
Other films have tackled the sensitive subject of cancer through humor (50/50 and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl come most to mind) far better than this film does – of course, those films have characters who actually have cancer. It’s a tall order to accept a story in which someone pretends to have cancer to keep their friendship going and to do so requires strong writing. But what may be most disconcerting about this film isn’t the terribly executed concept or the fact that Cram as a former casting director misfired on a number of actors cast within the film, it’s why anyone would want to be friends with narcissistic Jill, the thoroughly annoying Laurel, and even Cece who has a heart of gold, but is a complete bore.
Dobrev and Smith deserve much better than this script. Dobrev with many TV series and films under her belt is far better an actress than what this film merits. Smith is so damn likable that you can’t not feel bad that he committed to this role. And the strong chemistry between the two makes you question what could have been with a stronger writer.
Wren’s doctor summed up the entire movie in one line while arguing with her about how she obviously does not have cancer: “this is an idiotic conversation.” If only he had access to the rest of the conversations taking place in this sorry excuse for a comedy, he’d know it wasn’t an isolated incident.
Sick Girl is currently available via digital platforms and on-demand.