Adult World Reviews
John Cusack is a washed up poet she admires and tries to force her way into his life. It's quite satisfying that he finds her work crap.
I wished it had ended a little less rosy for her as I couldn't stand her. Lol.
Amy (Emma Roberts) is a recent college graduate who has big dreams of being a poet. Her idol, Rat Billings (John Cusack), even lives in town, giving her ample stalking opportunities. But Amy only seems to get rejection slip after rejection slip in the mail. Her parents cannot afford to bankroll her lifestyle, and so Amy sets off on her own, shacking in with a transvestite, and gaining a job at Adult World, a small mom-and-pop porn store. Amy holds onto hope that she can become a great poet with Rat's mentoring.
The movie feels overly quaint, like its premise, and much of the character interplay, came from a script from 1996 that was lost until now. The entire enterprise feels painfully dated in scope, humor, and its sense of peculiarity. I don't even know why the filmmakers decided to set the movie in modern times. The excuses they devise for why a mom-and-pop porn store exists in the world of 4G wi-fi Internet never come close to working. Yes, we still have the traditional brick-and-mortar porn stores to this day, but those have a wealth of selection. This is like a tiny store with a few walls of movie titles, movies that people rent and return. Remember those, video rental stores? Again, dated. The very existence of the porn store disrupts the credibility of the film; not to suggest it would be perfect without this one plot element. There's such a dated sense of titillation having a desperate woman land a job at a porn store. Oh no, she's out of her element! The problem with the porn store is that they never do anything with it. There are perhaps four jokes directly related to the fact that it is an adult novelty store, but beyond that it would have just sold toasters (note to self: look into potential market for adult novelty toasters). At no point does it prod our heroine along her journey or really have any larger impact besides the place where she meets her eventual love interest. The mom and pop that own the store are never seen again after their introduction, meaning the film even abandons one of the easier comedic scenarios of the elderly, folksy pornographer.
The entire storyline of a would-be poet slumming it at a porn store, learning some hard lessons, and finally finding her footing, well the whole thing just feels so much like a byproduct of the 1990s filmmaking, when the broader commercial impact of indie film was being explored. The middle-class suburban girl being pushed out of her comfort zone by a band of quirky misfits in a fringe setting, well it just feels so dated. Even so, that doesn't mean that this kind of story setup will flounder. Under the right care, even dated material can succeed, but Adult World coasts on the supposed outrageousness of its premise and characters. The trouble is that these people are more of less indie film cartoon characters with no real depth to them. Amy is mostly a brat but we never seem to go beyond the surface of her oversized ego and sense of certainty in her talent. Her relationship with the self-loathing Rat is meant to open herself up the harsh realities of the world, the rude awakening of every post-grad. Except he's really just a jerk that treats her like garbage and eventually humiliates her. At no point do you get the impression that either character is really having much of an impact upon the other, beside general annoyance or frustration. Then there's the character of Rubia, a transvestite Amy meets on the bus and within ONE DAY Amy asks if she can move in with this total stranger. Again, the idea of the kindly transvestite who becomes the heroine's roommate, doesn't that feel so dated too, so desperate to be edgy? Rubia is also ill defined and one-note. I'm surprised the filmmakers had the restraint to not give Rubia a tragic back-story.
With all that said, the movie is never as funny or as interesting or as edgy as it seems to believe it is. I may have laughed once or twice for the entire movie. I certainly wasn't attached to the characters by any means. There's a segment where Amy and Rubia discover Rat driving through town, so they hop on a bike and pedal after him. It's played out like it's supposed to be this stroke of comedy, complete with backbiting comments from Rubia, but it's never funny and it just continues to play out, never altering to possibly become funny. Here's something that is funny: after Amy's parents tell her they cannot afford to pay for her poetry submissions, she runs away from home. The funny part isn't her decision-making or the act of running away itself. The real funny part is that we don't see or hear from Amy's parents again for over an hour. Did her mother and father not care that their only child has disappeared? Are they secretly relieved? Amy doesn't even refer to her parents, so we're left wondering if there may be a missing person's report floating around somewhere. It's details like this, and the lack of taking advantage of the comic possibilities of the porn store setting, that showcase just how terribly Adult World goes about developing its shoddy story.
Then there's the overall sludgy look of the film itself. Filmed on location in Syracuse, New York during a wintry period, it's as if director Scott Coffey (Ellie Parker) wanted to communicate the misery of his characters with a visual style that made you feel their pain. This is one of the crummier looking wide releases I've ever seen. The cinematography is just dreary but without any strong sense of visual composition. I know this was a low-budget effort but Coffey and his team do such little work to hide the limitations; the set dressing is pathetically bare when it comes to locations, like the porn store. Every shot, every scene just reminds you further that Adult World just didn't have the money, or the right people for the money. Coffey's other sin is his mishandling of his actors. Roberts (We're the Millers) and Cusack (Lee Daniels' The Butler) are two very capable actors, but they seem abandoned here. Cusack is just a misanthropic who treats every moment with annoyance, and it gets tiresome. Roberts is all over the place, needing a gentle tug to help bring her histrionic character back to a suitable reality.
I cannot think of any reason a person should take useful time out of their day to watch Adult World. The film isn't funny. The characters are bothersome and lacking depth. The essential premise, the hook of the movie, is incidental and inconsequential. There is just a general malaise about the film, a lack of development that saps the characters and the story. Oh sure, things occasionally happen, or characters will magically reveal insights, but it's always in the most hasty, inorganic fashion. Even the title is so on-the-nose to be annoying absent further examination. By the end of the movie, I think we're left with Amy realizing that she might not be as talented as she thought, but hey, at least she has an arty boyfriend now. If this is a late blooming coming-of-age tale (a la Frances Ha) is misses all the necessary elements that push our heroine to grow. Instead, we're saddled with a crummy looking movie with poorly developed characters, a nascent sense of comedy, and a plot that feels quaintly dated at every turn. If this is what growing up looks like, take it from me and skip Adult World.
Nate's Grade: C-
Good FIlm! Adult World is a must-see comedy. Heartwarming and beautifully tender, the only flaw the film suffers is being a smidge too long. It's a movie well worth the watch, if you only keep an open mind to it going in. And I really liked it for what it was, a sweet movie about a girl trying to follow her dreams.
Amy, a naive college graduate who believes she's destined to be a great poet, begrudgingly accepts a job at a sex shop while she pursues a mentorship with reclusive writer Rat Billings.
Evan Peters was also really good here. He has a great on screen chemistry with Roberts. The weak link of the film, in my opinion, was John Cusack. He seemed out of place here. I think another actor in that role would have done a better job.
Despite the film's flaws, it is still worth seeing cause of Roberts and Peters.
John Cusack was also a waste of a character. He seems to have befriended Stones character for no apparent reason. Or maybe he had a reason and we just weren't privy to it; possible, seeing that we weren't told anything about this character or his purpose or motives or reason for being revered. He was just there. Acting weird. Not "Finding Forrester" or other generic reclusive writer weird either. Just awkward weird; with what looked to be zero depth or skeletons in his closet or traumatizing history to feed on or anything at all to make him seem cool or wise or even slightly sympathetic or interesting. I really hated this movie, I'm realizing as I write this. On the bright side, however, I guess the guy from American Horror Story was alright in it. He acted like an actual person, at least.
No, this isn't a porn. It's a coming of age movie, I guess. Found it on Netflix.
Girl, Amy (played by Emma Roberts), graduates from college and now has 90K in school debt for her poetry degree, and she's never had a job and so far she isn't selling poetry, so what is she going to do? After trying a bunch of places, the only one that hires her is.....Adult World, a ma and pa sex store in downtown. Nope, she didn't tell her parents the truth on where she's working. And no, she isn't selling herself. She's ringing up sales of magazines, videos, and toys. For someone who is supposed to be at the top of her class, it seems like a low place to start.
Well, she moves out of her parents' house. Desperate to follow her dream, she decides she needs a mentor and stalks some poet named "Rat Billings", played by John Cusack. And, yes, I watched this because I was in the mood for a Cusack movie. I was recently reminded he exists.
Amy is a unique character; she's enthusiastic, energetic, determined. She goes a little crazy over this Rat Billings character after stumbling on an old book of his poetry. Somehow, she talks and pushes her way into his life. At first he runs from her, but she is persistent. Finally, he reluctantly decides to tolerate her, even though he clearly finds her obnoxious.
At some point, she even gets drunk and throws herself at him. Now, with a guy who wasn't as decent as Billings apparently is, that could have gone a lot of other ways. I really like that his character had restraint and respect for his young protege, to not take advantage.
So, Amy gets to continue slowly working her way toward a sweet romance with her boss Alex, who is close to her own age. It takes so long to happen and they seem so platonic up until it happened that I actually didn't expect it. I had given up on it happening, and then it finally happened.
There are some weird moments in this movie.. All of Amy's friends are a little weird. Including her first roommate, coworker and crossdresser Rubia, played by Armando Riesco, who helps her when she needs it and tolerates her intruding into his space, for a little while at least, and never takes advantage of her. What a sweet guy. He also helps her chase down Rat Billings and find where he lives, by bicycle! Yes, they are riding bike double through the city, in the snow, chasing Rat Billings in his car...only in an indie film, right!? And, Rubia is pedaling in high heels, too. Just one of the weird moments in this.
In real life, would an innocent and naive girl like Amy, working at a place like Adult World, be surrounded by such nice guys? I really don't think so. But, this is a sweet little fantasy, and Amy gets a happy ending. She finds a sweet first love with Alex and gets her dream come true of being published, not just once, but twice. Neither publishment is exactly what she was hoping for, and it seems realistic that she experienced a lot of rejections before she got any yeses, and yet, she is published at a young age, just as she hoped and believed and struggled to make happen. The drama and effort she put into getting there paid off.
As for continuing to torment and harrass Rat...I think she's about done by the end, and it's kind of funny how she keeps coming back and having one more thing to say and finally is ready to leave him in peace, and he seems secretly satisfied to have contributed to her education. Rat pays her a big compliment during their last confrontation through his window (he won't open his door to her anymore after she busted his guitar, etc), when he calls her a hyena. He says something about culture dying, but she is not going to be part of that. So, in his own not so nice way, he is giving her a compliment on her unique personality and ability to contribute to the survival of culture, or something like that.
I liked it: happy ending and the heroine got to have some big growing and learning experiences without getting broken, with some strange but interesting drama along the way.
The good: Roberts was fine, even though I found her rather whinny, but that is to be expected because that is what the character called for. The best part about the movie was actually her interactions with John Cusack. I was very excited to see Peters in another role, but this was not special for him at all. This is a role that could have been played by anyone. I would guess that Peters got the part because he worked with Roberts previously. I know all three are more talented than they seemed to let on in this film. The stand out actor in this for me was Chris Riggi. He did a great job. I thought at times the character had some conflicting moods, but it worked for me.
I would like to stay a little reserved on my feelings of the bad, because I really did not enjoy much. I did not like the character Amy. She was too self-involved. I understand she was trying to be deep, but as everyone could see, she was not very deep. I was a modest fan of Cusack as the mentor, but even he came off as confusing at times. Also, a completely wasted talent in Cloris Leachman. If it weren't for the fact that I just watched the movie I would have immediately forgotten she was in this, along with Shannon Woodward. In, and out.
As this is a character/coming of age piece, there isn't much else to talk about. Both aspects for me failed. There are some great coming of age movies out there, but I seem to keep finding bad ones lately.
Just looked up a few box numbers and the thing only made $19,731. I hope the production budget was extremely low. It also didn't really score that well on any of the reviews.
Hopefully, I will have a chance to see Roberts and Peters in some other movies where they can really shine (Or I guess I could just defer to American Horror Story).