Director Jamie Babbit believes in making more films that portray the gay and lesbian community because LGBT characters are grossly underrepresented onscreen. At the New York Premiere of Addicted to Fresno (2015), Babbit said that if she spends years of her life working on an indie film, "I like to do something that has gay content in it, especially lesbian content, because I am a lesbian and I don't see a lot of lesbian movies out there. So I just feel like, I'm a filmmaker, I should give back to the community... and be a part of stuff that is written about our community."
But while the film involves lesbian characters and provides a lot of humor based in the lesbian community, the story's central relationship is between two sisters: Shannon (Arrested Development's Judy Greer), a "recovering" sex addict whose rehab only resulted in an affair with her married therapist, and Martha (Orange is the New Black's Natasha Lyonne), a lesbian hotel maid who is hung up on a manipulative straight woman. Martha's supportive and caring tendencies lead to codependent relationships with both her romantic interests and her self-sabotaging sister. The familial bond is tested when an accident during one of Shannon's sexual exploits forces the duo to embark on a wacky and farcical murder cover-up.
Apart from laughs, the film is focused primarily on the toxic way the sisters relate to each other. As Babbit - whose But I'm a Cheerleader (1999) satirizes a camp for "curing" lesbianism - explained, "To me, the core of the movie was about codependency... That was the main thing that interested me in the movie, more than that there were queer characters." Many audience members find it refreshing, too, for a movie to depict lesbian characters without the film being primarily about homosexuality. Writing complex characters who happen to be gay, without focusing solely on their sexuality, is a key step toward normalizing LGBT characters in mainstream film and TV.
As the two sisters' paths diverge, Addicted to Fresno ultimately encourages us to be realistic about the need to cut ties with people who are poor influences or harmful triggers in our lives. When Judy Greer's Shannon decides to confess at the end of the film, she frees Martha to go her separate way and pursue her own interests for once. Martha begins a healthy new romance with her fitness instructor, Kelly (Parks and Recreations' Aubrey Plaza). Babbit says of the ending, "They're just not going to be happy together, so we had to put Judy's character in jail to give Martha a chance... I guess that we were just trying to say it is good to disconnect sometimes from people that you're enmeshed with - it's just the only way to really grow."
The film's unconventional ending rejects the idea that we can all live together happily ever after, no matter what. Sometimes it may be healthier to completely break with a destructive loved one, even if she's your only family.