Jennifer Cram makes her writing and directing debut with Sick Girl. Nina Dobrev stars in this comedy as Wren, a 30-something who never really grew up. She still parties every night and is in a perpetual hangover daze because of it. Her best friends, though, have left that phase of life behind. Cece (Stephanie Koenig) is dealing with parenting a very demanding child. Laurel (Sherry Cola) marathon training eats up a lot of time. Jill (Hayley Magnus) has an ever-expanding business, forcing her to be on her phone all the time.
This chasm is only furthering Wren’s downward spiral. On the rare occasion everyone is together, Wren attempts to have an actual heart-to-heart, but everyone is distracted by everything. So Wren tells her friends she has cancer, but she lied. She is entirely healthy. The false statement works, though, as the four are now going to the spa or catching up, minus the real-life baggage. Will Wren’s lie catch up to her, and if so, what will the fallout be?
Sick Girl is full of amusing moments brought to life by a strong cast. Dobrev walks the thin line between being unforgivably reprehensible and empathetic. Wren’s desire to still see her friends is relatable, though everything else she does (to a point) is selfish at worst or stupidly misguided at best. But the character never turns the audience off because Dobrev is effortlessly charming.
“…Wren tells her friends she has cancer, but she lied. She is entirely healthy.”
It certainly helps that the supporting players bring their A-game as well. Koenig finds the right balance of constant exhaustion and fun to work. Cola spotlights some brilliant comedic timing, both verbal and physical. Magnus is sweet and likable. Plus, the core group share a chemistry that makes it easy to buy them as friends.
The cast makes the film as delightful as it is. Scenes are funny or appropriately dramatic, but overall, the narrative feels like a skit. Cece and the others take Wren to get a second opinion despite her not really being sick. The sequence, though, is just Wren trying to convince the doctor she could, maybe, have cancer. And then it’s over. Ultimately, it is unnecessary. Other scenes feel rushed, especially as the end draws near and Wren is forced to reckon with everything she’s done. Without spoiling much, a major move (some might argue sacrifice) on her part is a blip on the radar when it really should be the emotional climax of the redemption phase of the plot.
Still, Sick Girl does work. Dobrev throws herself into an unlikable role and still charms the audience. Koenig, Cola, Magnus, and a brief turn from Wendi McLendon-Covey, as well as Brandon Mychal Smith’s actual cancer having Leo, do the absolute best they can. Cram’s first film might not balance its tone properly and rush through key moments, but it is a solid debut that shows some promise.
"…Dobrev is effortlessly charming."