Review: Adult World
PLOT:Amy (Emma Roberts) is a recent college grad. An English major focused on writing poetry, she fully expects to take the literary world by storm, but her lack of talent and crushing student debt forces her to take a menial job at a porn shop called “Adult World” which is populated by an eccentric cast of characters.
REVIEW: ADULT WORLD is a film that's pretty much doomed right from the get-go. It starts off with perky Amy, inspired by the poster of Sylvia Plath that hangs on her wall, oh-so-adorably planning to commit suicide in a quirky way figuring it's the fastest way to literary fame. Because suicide is hilarious, right? Naturally, this is accompanied by a trendy, indie rock soundtrack, making everything all that much “cuter”. Clearly, this was going to be another in a long line of “quirky” indie comedies that often pop up on VOD after some festival play dates. About one in ten of these movies work. ADULT WORLD is among the vast majority that fall flat.
More than anything, ADULT WORLD is a star vehicle for Emma Roberts, and this seems like an attempt to turn her into an adorably klutzy, Greta Gerwig/ Zooey Deschanel style-heroine. Sadly, Roberts doesn’t have the spark those actresses have. In their hands, Amy might have been cute or even endearing, but with Roberts playing her she’s downright insufferable. Saddled with $90,000 in student debt, and somehow convinced that she’s going to emerge as a major literary voice despite any kind of discernible talent, she’s so out of touch with reality that it’s hard to sympathize with her. Clearly, this is intentional, as a big deal is made out of Amy’s unearned entitlement, but it’s hard to invest in a character for ninety minutes if you hate them.
As per this kind of indie formula, ADULT WORLD is populated by all kinds of quirky supporting characters, all of whom only exist to help Amy figure out things about herself. This is true of the porn shop’s elderly owners (Cloris Leachman and Jerry Adler) who are so sweet that despite this being a minimum wage job they give Amy a comprehensive health plan. It’s also true of Adult World’s resident transvestite, Rubia (Armando Riesco) who allows Amy to crash with her immediately after they meet, as well as the nice, clean-cut boy (Evan Peters) who works the cash, and serves as her de-facto love interest. All of these characters are infinitely more interesting than Amy, but their screen-time does not reflect that.
The movie’s only flashes of inspiration come from John Cusack, in a supporting part as Amy’s literary hero, Rat Billings, a gen-x icon (just like Cusack) who’s since gone to seed. Amy cleans his house and sucks up to him in exchange for mentorship, and it’s a stretch to think that the ornery Rat would allow Amy to hang around, even if she is (as the movie constantly tells us) “adorable”. Cusack does get off one good line, where he explains that Amy is a person who’s completely “without knowledge”, which seems true but, again, doesn’t make for a compelling protagonist. ADULT WORLD would have been more interesting if Cusack’s Rat was the focus, as he’s the only character with any depth.
It’s always a drag giving an indie like ADULT WORLD a bad review. Everyone involved clearly had their hearts in the right place, but as an indie heroine, Roberts isn’t able to carry the movie. That said, she shouldn’t shoulder all of the blame, as Amy’s such an unlikable brat it’s doubtful anyone could have really made this work. ADULT WORLD is just another failed indie comedy that might entertain some teens on a Netflix binge, but isn’t especially worth going out of your way for. This is definitely one to skip.