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Film Review: Adult World


Despite its raunchy title “Adult World” (2014) is a new quirky comedy directed by Scott Coffey starring Emma Roberts , John Cusack and Cloris Leachman.

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 graduate with a major in poetry. Amy wants to become a famous poet. According to her, what makes her a poet is that she feels, she has ideas. Amy is one of those perfect students, straight “A’s”, 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 “A’s” 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 contests. She has no job and her parents simply can’t support her anymore.

With this heartbreaking news Amy is determined to find a job. Being a poetry major makes it difficult. It is not a marketable skill that CEOs are looking for. Every liberal arts major should be able to relate. Eventually Amy finds herself working in an adult sex shop owned by Mary Anne (Cloris Leachman) which has one employee, Alex (Evan Peters), who is around Amy’s age.

Amy finds working in the store degrading. She is an artist after all and artists don’t work in adult sex shops. Plus Amy has led 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.

“Adult World” is not a vulgar sex comedy. If that is what you are expecting, you will be disappointed. There is no nudity and the sex shop setting doesn’t allow for low brow humor.

Instead “Adult World” has that indie, Sundance feel to it. The characters 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.

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 of her 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 reveals their feelings for each other.

There is also a character named Rubia (Armando Riesco) a male cross dresser who visits the shop often. 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. She is supportive and encourages Amy to follow her dreams. In that sense, the character was needed. The character wearing a dress was not.

Emma Roberts has some screen presence to her. She is bubbly and likable. She may not have that famous smile her aunt has 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, but she doesn’t seem to fit in with that crowd. I see her more as a mainstream actress in the future.

John Cusack goes the grumpy  Old Man Winter route in this movie but he isn’t old enough for that type of character. Instead he comes across as a rat. A pompous has-been. Though Cusack keeps the character from becoming too unlikable. The movie does allow for some sweet moments between Rat and Amy as the viewer senses a bond growing between them.

“Adult World” is not a complete success but if you are tired of Hollywood, formulaic romantic comedies it may seem slightly refreshing and off beat. And for that reason, plus Emma Roberts performance, I recommend seeing this movie.

“Adult World” has a limited run at Facets Multimedia. Check their website for showtimes.


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