Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Sexual Content and some Drug Use
Directed by: Scott Coffey
Written by: Andrew Cochran
Starring: Emma Roberts, Evan Peters, John Cusack, Armando Riesco, Shannon Woodward, Reed Birney & Catherine Lloyd Burns
ADULT WORLD is one of those movies that comes off as completely standard stuff. It’s not going to blow your mind and I didn’t hate it, but this coming-of-age comedy is a strictly mundane affair. The three big names (Emma Roberts, Evan Peters, John Cusack) headlining the cast only strengthen the feeling of this being a wasted opportunity. The film is a tonal mess and the plot is strung together in a series of uneven events. It’s a movie that doesn’t know where to take a stand and how to properly tell an engaging story. There’s a would-be unconvincing message that doesn’t fit with the supposedly upbeat tone. ADULT WORLD is very much of victim of nobody really trying and yet for all that, it’s not terrible. This is just a disappointing bore.
Amy has just graduated from college and is convinced that she’s going to become the next famous poet. However, the constant stream of rejection letters and her dependence on her parents (who are understandably fed up with her lack of a job) would say otherwise. Amy is forced to swallow the humble pie and take the only job where she can find work, the sex store “Adult World.” On her daily adventures in Adult World, Amy becomes good friends with co-worker Alex and forcibly throws herself into the role of protégé to washed-up writer Rat Billings. That’s pretty much all the plot the movie covers right there. It tries to mix in comedy with drama and winds up with a pretty uneven film that just exists.
ADULT WORLD is very much part of what some people call the mumblecore movement, even though it does feature bigger names than that subgenre of filmmaking usually has. It’s got the shaky camera work and feels like it’s very natural in the dialogue, but that’s part of the problem. This is a movie and it focuses far too much on one annoying character that I would run away from if I met her on the street. Evan Peters is alright as Amy’s potential love interest, but there isn’t a whole lot of development thrown his way. John Cusack is only solid performance in that he feels like a fleshed-out guy. He’s a washed-up poet living a miserable drunken existence and doesn’t care about Amy’s success, even though she’s throwing herself at his feet. Then there’s Emma Roberts as Amy. She’s proven herself to be wickedly talented in the past (e.g. IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY), but she’s plain bad here. Add in that her character doesn’t realistically learn a lesson and the conclusion plays out as if everything’s working out for the sake of the movie coming to an end. By that time, it was all becoming a chore to sit through and I welcomed the end credits.
At one point, Rat Billings (Cusack as the only decent character) points out that if everything’s great, then nothing is. The bad is what catapults the great things into being so great. The same can be said for films like ADULT WORLD. It’s an independent production starring some big names, but comes off as a movie that isn’t great. In a small sense that can be taken as the very message Cusack’s character throws in a half-assed manner at Emma Roberts. This movie only makes everything else around it seem that much better. I wouldn’t recommend ADULT WORLD, unless you’re looking for some background noise or something to fall asleep to. Harsh words, but true.