How does a movie about finding a VCR turn into a movie about a guy trying to Rear Window his way back to his ex, by proving her current beau’s a second coming Norman Bates? You’d have to ask best friends, Dan Gregor and Doug Mand about that one. Besides co-writing Most Likely to Murder and hiring their other best friend, Adam Pally (Band Aid), to star in it, both are multi-hyphenates on this project. Gregor is directing his first feature film, after directing TV before, and Mand is playing Pally’s on-screen best friend as well, a performance which required him to drink Red Bull and maintain a chin beard.
Billy (Pally) is a former high school popular dude who hasn’t been back home in five years. When his parents (Didi Cohn and Ethan Phillips) tell him they’re moving away, Billy decides to use the time to reach out to his high school girlfriend, Kara (Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and married to Gregor).
Much like his childhood bedroom, which hasn’t changed a bit, everyone Billy went to high school with still lives in the area, to the point that Billy can go to a bar on a random night and run into half of his graduating class. Maybe they’re all in the area for the holidays (it is Thanksgiving), but that doesn’t seem like the case.
For how much the population of Valley Stream, New York hasn’t changed, Billy isn’t the “King” anymore and, while some parts of Most Likely to Murder are familiar, how Billy’s friends’ respond to his return is original. People consistently call Billy out on his crap. They don’t laugh at his immature jokes to be agreeable. His bad behavior isn’t rewarded, tolerated, or excused. Duane (Mand) loves Billy but he has his self-respect, too.
In a bonus featurette on the making of, and the film’s commentary track, Gregor talks about being a bully in middle school and deeply regretting how he treated people. Most Likely to Murder feels like an affront to the bad habits movies have fostered in the past towards people who are perceived as different.
This is most felt through the character of Lowell, played by Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men). Lowell is a local pharmacist and the first decent guy Kara’s dated, by her estimation. When Billy tries to paint him as a murderer, after his mom (Constance Shulman) passes away, Kara’s not happy (Bloom is a magnificent curser) but could Billy’s suspicions be right?
Every role in Most Likely to Murder is cast to the hilt. Mand brings a truckload of energy to Duane and John Reynolds (Search Party) is amazing as Officer Perkins, who doesn’t seem like a terrible cop, but can’t contain his aggravation with Billy.
Highbrow and low are beautifully mixed in the film’s version of Norman Bates’ peep hole, while Billy’s character’s progress is kept realistic. Right after getting done calling himself gross, Billy does something grosser, and it puts a cap on the speed of his personal growth.
Be sure to stick around through the closing credits for a full version of “Who’s Those Guys,” a song improvised for an earlier scene. The full version is sung by Jack Dolgen (one of the songwriters on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and Jason Paige, and goes the extra mile to land the finish.
Most Likely to Murder is available on DVD starting May 1st.