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GIRL MOST LIKELY

From the Upper East Side to the Jersey Shore
Girl Most Likely is set in two wildly divergent worlds: the glitzy, privileged environs of New York City's Upper East Side Gold Coast, populated by trust-fund kids, hedge-fund managers and literary strivers, and the working-class world of the Jersey Shore, where a night out means hitting the Boardwalk for a slice and some saltwater taffy. The first is where Imogene hoped, dreamed and finally willed herself; the second represents her considerably humbler origins and her current failures.

Between them, Berman and Pulcini bring an intimate familiarity with each of those places. "I grew up in New York," says Berman. "And we live in New York now. We've been to the Lotos Club, the exclusive literary club where the opening party takes place, many times. The New York part of the shoot was easy for me, but I wasn't familiar with the Jersey Shore."

On the other hand, Pulcini's parents had a home in Ocean City, New Jersey, so he knew the area well. "I was shocked to discover the writer was from Los Angeles, because she got it so right," he says. "Clearly, she's a New Yorker at heart."

The Jersey Shore scenes were shot in Ocean City, located 20 minutes south of Atlantic City and a world away from the Manhattan life that Imogene covets, as well as in classic New Jersey beach towns, Long Beach and Seaside Heights, and the Rockaways in Queens.

"We had some crazy weather -- a hurricane and an earthquake, a lot of extreme natural things," says Berman. "An earthquake in that area is obviously rare. The house we were using in the Rockaways really shook. And we were evacuated during Hurricane Irene. Whole sections of New York City were evacuated. We lost a couple of shoot days and the house we were shooting in was struck by lightning."

The next year was even worse for the area when Hurricane Sandy rolled through, destroying everything in its wake. "Sadly, just about every location where we shot was then hit by Hurricane Sandy," says Berman. "It is really tragic, but at least we captured for posterity a place that is now forever altered."

The contrast between cosmopolitan Manhattan and workaday Ocean Beach exemplifies the conflict between what Imogene thinks she needs to be and the reality of her roots. "She is from a place that's the antithesis of the Upper East Side culture he's been trying to fit into," says Berman. "That effort has blinded her to the beauty in her upbringing and the uniqueness of the world she came from."

That is, until she reluctantly returns and begins to embrace the fact that there really is "no place like home."

"We tried to use references to The Wizard of Oz, because we felt she had to go on her own journey to appreciate her personal Kansas," says Berman. "There are overt references, like the opening scene, and some smaller ones. For example, she always wears red shoes when she's on her journey."

"There are visual cues, as well as some musical ones," adds Pulcini. "Bob Balaban is very wizardly when she finally meets him. We hope audiences have fun trying to spot the references."

And in the end, Imogene discovers some important truths about herself, her family and friends, and her talent that will define her future. "It's a really great story about family, and more specifically, about mother-daughter relationships," says Wiig. "Imogene learns something really special. It's essential to stay connected to people who have been important at every stage of your life."

Styler lauds the film's ability to blend that crucial life lesson with zany humor. "It's a touching comedy that has a strong emotional core," she says. "It speaks to families who, in the final analysis, are there for each other come hell or high water, but who struggle to come to terms with who they are as individuals. Imogene's journey helps her realize that her family has been there for her all along. People love her for who she is, regardless of whether she's a successful writer or not. There's a strong message for humanity wrapped up in a gorgeous comedy."

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