by Christie Robb
There’s gotta be a better name for a woman suffering from Peter Pan Syndrome than “Princess Pan.” Whatever it is, Wren Pepper in first-time writer/director Jennifer Cram’s Sick Girl has a terminal case.
The last single party girl left standing from a formerly tight squad, Wren watches her besties growing up and growing apart. Two are moms struggling through the fog of fatigue caused by cute but demanding young children. One is wrapped up in her boyfriend and training for a marathon.
No one wants to get drunk and hit the club anymore.
So, in a desperate bid for her friends’ attention, Wren invents a cancer diagnosis. Cause nothing brings folks together quite like the big C.
That this is an effective strategy is undeniable. Keeping your girlfriends company during chemo is the middle-aged equivalent of the early 20s puke vigil, where you hold a pal’s hair back as they vomit up too many sugary cocktails and you make sure they fall asleep on their side.
The problem is that lying about a cancer diagnosis is something that’s damn hard to come back from once the truth is out there.
Sick Girl is often charming. Nina Dobrev (the CW’s Vampire Diaries) imbues Wren with a reckless self-centered charisma that makes it tough to look away. The chemistry between the reconnecting girlfriends is delightful. And it’s satisfying to watch Wren squirm as the guilt about her lies mounts.
But, even though I wanted to take my disbelief and give it some drawing paper and a pack of crayons to keep it busy in a corner, it kept wandering back demanding attention. Cause a lie on this scale isn’t an aw-sucks wacky personality quirk. It’s too big. Too devastating. There’s a clinical diagnosis for faking an illness to get attention: Munchausen’s Syndrome. So wrapping the story up with a nice little bow at the end doesn’t really work. The ending feels unearned.
I don’t know how you can redeem Wren, short of her going to medical school, kicking all manner of ass, and actually finding a cure for cancer.
Still, if you can successfully distract your sense of disbelief, there’s a lot to enjoy in Sick Girl, including Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs) as Wren’s mom, Wren’s reaction to children in general, and watching this deluded narcissist suffer her way into personal growth. But, the film whiffs on opportunities to flesh out the personalities of the other three friends and show what Wren is bringing to the friendship table besides tequila shots and chaos.