Sunday, March 9, 2014

Film Review: Adult World

"Adult World"  *** (out of ****)

"Adult World" (2014) is a new quirky comedy directed by Scott Coffey starring Emma Roberts (Julia Roberts' niece), John Cusack and Cloris Leachman.

"Adult World" wants to be a coming of age story where young college age students learn the difficulties of living in "the real world".

Emma Roberts stars as Amy, a recent college grad with a major in poetry. Amy wants to become a famous poet and have her work published. According to her, what makes her a poet is that she feels. She has ideas. Amy is one of those perfect students, straight "As", always raising her hand, near perfect SAT scores. She thought after college life would be easy for her. Everything would fall into place. I mean c'mon, she got straight "As" in school. That should impress magazine publishers right?

One day Amy's parents drop a bomb on her. They can't afford her. Her education has put her $90,000 in debt. She lives at home, spends all of her time writing, submitting her work to magazines and entering contest, has no job and her parents simply can't support her anymore.

With this heartbreaking news Amy is determine to find a job. Being a poetry major makes it difficult. It is not a marketable skill that CEOs are looking for. Eventually Amy finds herself working in an adult video shop owned by Mary Anne (Cloris Leachman) and the one employee, Alex (Evan Peters), who is around Amy's age.

Amy finds working in the store degrading. She is an artist after all. Artist don't work in adult sex shop. Plus Amy has lead a sheltered life. She is a virgin and has not been exposed to the wild city life. Everything in the store is new to her. The variety of people who shop there surprises her. It will truly be a new experience for her. And that's how the movie gets its title. The shop is called Adult World. And it does deal with porn but Adult World also has a multiple meaning. Amy leaves childhood behind. She enters the adult world. She gets a job, moves out of her parents place. Learns how to take the bus. Meets people of different walks of life.

But Amy hasn't given up on her dream of being a poet. As luck would have it, Amy meets her favorite poet, Rat Billings (John Cusack) at a book signing. Initially Rat is scared off by Amy. She is a very enthusiastic young woman, who is not afraid to put herself out there. She is a go-getter.  Amy wants Rat to become her mentor. To read her writing. Tell her if she is any good. Possibly introduce her to someone who can get her published.

Rat is not interested. He is reclusive. He takes himself very serious and values his privacy. Amy is just a nuisance to him. But Amy won't take no for an answer. She even talks Rat into the idea of working as his maid, hoping all the while Rat will read her poems and offer advice.

Emma Roberts has some screen presence to her. She is bubbly and likable. She may not have the famous smile like her aunt but at her young age she has her own charms. As she gets older I wouldn't be surprised to find her in a lot of Hollywood romantic comedies unless she takes the indie route, in which case her career won't amount to much. She actually doesn't seem to fit in with that crowd. I definitely see her more as a mainstream actress in the future.

John Cusack goes the grumpy old man route in this movie but he isn't old enough for this part. He just comes across as a rat. A pompous has been. But it is a somewhat nice role for Cusack, who keeps the character from becoming too unlikable.

Any problem I have with the movie has to do with the script written by Andy Cochran. All I ask of a movie is that it be vaguely believable. What happens in "Adult World" doesn't struck me as believable. I question if Amy has learned anything. I wish the relationship between Rat and Amy were different. Without spoiling too much, I wish his character would have been more supportive or go about his constructive criticism in a more insightful way. And the romance which blossoms between Alex and Amy should have been handled in a way which slowly revealed their feelings for each other.

There is also a character here named Rubia (Armando Riesco) a male cross dresser who visits the shop frequently. Amy also looks to him/her for advice. I can't think of a reason why this character had to be a cross dresser other than for the shock value to the Amy character. Rubia however is the opposite of Rat. Rubia is supportive and encourages Amy to follow her dreams. In that sense the character was needed. The character wearing a dress was not.

"Adult World" has that indie, Sundance feel to it. The character are the types you would meet at a liberal arts school. The guys wear hoodies and jeans and everyone gets high and disses the mainstream. The "too cool for school" attitude. Still, despite that I somewhat enjoyed it, even with its flaws.

I like Emma Roberts, the message is sweet and sometimes the relationship between Rat and Amy is fun to watch. Those would be the only reasons to watch this movie.