Fresh out of college, quirky but naive Amy (Emma Roberts, American Horror Story) is convinced she’s going to be a famous poet – she just needs someone to finally acknowledge her greatness. But being unemployed and saddled with debt, her prospects for literary fame look grim. At the behest of her parents, she takes a job at a local sex toy shop, Adult World, where she juggles her newfound retail responsibilities with pursuing a mentorship under a reclusive, crusty and alcoholic poet (John Cusack). But as Amy tries to make her voice heard among a social circle of eccentrics, including Adult World’s adorable young manager Alex, she discovers that a little humility may be just what she needs to achieve her success. Satirically funny and thoroughly-if-awkwardly sexy, Adult World is a unique comedy about the realities of growing up.
Adult World 7.5
eyelights: its cast. its setting.
eyesores: its predictability.
“Continue to fail. If you want to make art, you have to fail. And so, the hardest job is to fail better.”
When you’re a teenager, you often feel on top of the world: you’re special, you have a gift, you’re going to change the world, you’re going to be somebody. It’s nothing new: Many of us have been through that phase. But there’s something about the millenials that’s different: Entitlement.
I knew hardly anyone who felt entitled when I was growing up – and I knew people from various backgrounds and upbringings. Even the more well-to-do seemed to have their feet well planted on the ground; they knew they had to work hard or they simply didn’t get anywhere.
But that seems to have shifted in recent times. I keep reading about or encountering young adults who expect things handed over to them on a silver platter – just because they feel they’re deserving. Forget the fact that they haven’t achieved much of anything yet or that they show little skill.
Such is the case with Amy. A college student, she is confident that she will one day become an established poet and expects her parents to take care of all her bills. And the money that they’ve set aside for her studies? She spends it casually, arguing that she’s investing in her future career.
So her parents force her to get a job.
Given her lack of skills, the only gig she can find is as a clerk in an adult video store, Adult World. And it becomes a bit of an eye-opener as she learns about adult life, makes new friends, and modifies her expectations. She even moves in with a drag queen she meets and befriends at the store.
She also tries to befriend a local poet called Rat Billings, who published a popular tome when he was much younger but has fallen on hard times since. He now teaches literature as he tries to write his next book. Amy desperately wants for him to become her mentor and tries hard to make it happen.
But will she learn what she needs to become the successful author she aspires to be?
‘Adult World’ first saw the light of day in 2013 at the Tribeca Festival but never got a proper release. As has become more and more common these days with indie films, it was made available through video on demand and DVD. It’s hardly a well-known title and can be found in all DVD dust bins.
No doubt due to its enticing title.
Frankly, I thought that it was a perfectly fine coming-of-age story, but it didn’t charm me or make me laugh. It’s sort of a middle-of-the-road picture with a decent enough script, solid enough direction and credible performances from the whole cast, including leads Emma Roberts and Evan Peters.
John Cusack was perfectly dour and sulky as Rat Billings, dressed in rattier version of his slick self from twenty years ago. He looked tired, a bit jowly, with his hair is seemingly dyed. One might argue it’s just the part, but he’s seemed to lose his mojo in recent years. What’s going on with John?
Still, he was good, familiar.
Armando Riesco was also excellent as Rubia, Amy’s roommate, but I wondered if he was playing a cliché or if his character had a more defining quality beyond “diva hairdresser with a heart of gold”. If there was, I didn’t see it – which doesn’t mean it wasn’t present. Still, Riesco was superb in the part.
Naturally, the picture has to have some drama in it in the third act (what self-respecting dramedy wouldn’t?) but I didn’t find it too over-the-top. I did, however, find Rat’s behaviour unconscionable and an unnecessary betrayal of Amy’s trust. If he wanted to break her heart, he’s succeeded.
All too well.
In fact, the picture begins with a bookended scene of Amy trying to commit suicide, but failing to settle on exactly the correct method. It’s more quirky than dark or depressing, but it gives one a sense of where the picture is headed from the onset. Thankfully, it shifts gears soon thereafter.
But ‘Adult World’ still never rises to any heights. One can see that the filmmakers were trying to be funny-yet-edgy, but it doesn’t quite come together in a purely satisfying way. One enjoys the film, one is entertained for 90 minutes, but one also quickly forgets it and moves on to the next one.
Because ‘Adult World’, like Amy, is good, but nothing really special.
Date of viewing: June 15, 2016