Jamie Babbit’s “Fresno” delivers on the funny

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The international premiere of Jamie Babbit’s Fresno at the Inside Out Film Festival in Toronto this past weekend was the talk of the festival.

That’s right, folks: Babbit is back with another movie. Actually, I should say Jamie Babbit and Natasha Lyonne are back together for another movie. The excitement around this film is palpable and, really, how could it not be? (But I’m A Cheerleaderenough said, right?) But we’re talking about Fresno here, a whole different beast. Is the new Babbit feature a winner?

Fresno is a mixed bag of fun indeed. Starring Lyonne and Judy Greer as sisters Shannon and Martha, it also boasts a supporting cast that includes the likes of Aubrey Plaza, Fred Armisen and Molly Shannon. So, yes, it’s funny. Oh, and yes, the gay is present.

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Before her sister shows up, Martha is living a quiet life in Fresno, California, working as a hotel maid, crushing on a straight girl and totally ignoring her gay and gorgeous Krav Maga instructor (Aubrey Plaza). But Shannon showing up on the scene changes everything.

Some more on Martha first: She’s a dorky sweetheart, a pushover and a bit oblivious. Let’s start with the sweetheart part. Martha clearly loves her sister, helping Shannon settle in and hooking her up with a job at the hotel after she leaves sex rehab. (Yeah, there’s that. Serious stuff, but completely funny in the context of Fresno!)

But Shannon hasn’t left rehab a changed woman. She still resorts to sex to fill an emotional void. She’s not particularly picky either. Martha catches her sexing up the skeeviest of hotel guests, and in the chaos we have one dead mullet-wielding perv. Now the sisters get to bond as they cover up a murder. Yay?

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These aren’t two seasoned criminals we’re dealing with here–the cover up is far from smooth sailing. Some blackmail becomes part of the mix and the sisters find themselves having to come up with $25,000. And of course, there’s tension of a different kind.

There are some unresolved issues between the sisters that stress raises to the surface. Martha blames Shannon for the death of their mother and their father’s struggle with alcoholism. And Shannon–well, she’s always been aware of that underlying resentment. But I swear, it’s a comedy!

And it’s a comedy that reunites Lyonne and Clea DuVall. I’m not going to give too much away, but yes, we do see Megan and Graham together again 15 years later.

Priorities though: Fresno gives us a new lady crush in Aubrey Plaza. Okay, so not new to me, but I certainly never appreciated how good Plaza looks in a blazer before this movie. As Kelly the Krav Maga instructor, Aubrey is fit, and she likes her some Martha. She’s not afraid of saying so, either. Martha, however, isn’t quick to catch on, and when she does, it’s that classic case of not wanting what’s good for you. Or is it not believing you deserve something good?

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Does Martha get her act together and get the girl? Does Shannon become a changed person? Do they both go to jail? You’ll have to watch the movie to find that out.

What I can tell you is that Fresno is about the growth of two sisters, both individually and as a duo, and of the consequences, good and bad, of that growth. We see great performances by several talented women, which comes as no surprise when you consider that Portlandia writer Karey Dornetto penned the film.

In short, you’re going to want to watch FresnoVisit the movie’s website to find out when it’s screening at a festival near you.

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