Adult World (2014) - Rotten Tomatoes

Adult World (2014)

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Adult World is a satirical comedy about an eccentric young woman, Amy Anderson, (Emma Roberts) who has just come out of university, convinced she's going to be a famous poet. Saddled with debt and unemployed she moves back in with her parents who force her to get a job. Desperate and armed with a poetry degree and not much else she takes the only job she can find, working in an adult book store called Adult World. Meanwhile, desperate to get her poems published, Amy stalks an aging punk poet figure named Rat Billings (John Cusack), "one of the greatest poets of the early 90s." Rat reluctantly agrees to mentor her. As Amy makes new friends, including a drag queen named Rubia, the elderly couple who own Adult World, and Alex, the charming and quirky young manager, she learns that she might not be the voice of her generation after all. (c) IFC Films
  • Rating:
    R (for sexual content and some drug use)
  • Genre:
  • Directed By:
  • Written By:
  • In Theaters:
     limited
  • On DVD:
  • Box Office:
    $16,740.00
  • Runtime:
  • Studio:

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Cast

John Cusack
as Rat Billings
Summer Shelton
as Creative Writing Professor
Manu Gargi
as Mr. Shah
Pat Squire
as Old Blind Woman
Scott Coffey
as Bookstore Owner
Patricia Squire
as Old Blind Woman
Joshua B. Ward
as Customer Rick
Becky Cerio
as Bus Driver
A. Kyo Moon
as Hetero Man
Marshico Robinson
as Hetero Woman
Darin Turnbull
as Apartment Manager
Evelina Oboza
as Pretty Girl
Alexander Edinger
as Customer Max
Jo Mei
as Yumi
Avery Pastella
as Girl at Party
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Critic Reviews for Adult World

All Critics (35) | Top Critics (16)

Adult World does have some smart, funny and wincingly painful things to say about the desire to make art vs. the desire to be famous for it.

Full Review… | March 7, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Roberts is completely over-the-top here, her frantic, unfunny performance serving only to highlight Cusack's caginess and restraint.

Full Review… | March 6, 2014
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

"Adult World" is a coming-of-age story in which the starting age seems to be approximately 9. As a result, it just doesn't work.

Full Review… | February 28, 2014
Detroit News
Top Critic

It's packed with independent-film cliches, yet director Scott Coffey manages to rise above them, thanks largely to the performances of Emma Roberts and John Cusack.

Full Review… | February 27, 2014
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

Never quite fully delivers much more than yet another oh-poor-me take on post-collegiate struggles in the cold, cruel 21st Century.

Full Review… | February 14, 2014
RogerEbert.com
Top Critic

A smart, incisive comedy about a recent college grad's booby-trapped immersion into real life.

Full Review… | February 13, 2014
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Adult World

Not bad. Runs out of steam mid way through, but I did quite like it. Emma Roberts plays a spoiled brat ,living off her parents and trying to make it as a poet. When her parents cut her off, she takes a job in a sex shop. 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.

Nicki Marie
Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer

½

The film felt somewhat out-dated, like it was meant to come out in the mid to late 90's. Had it been set in the 90's, at least, it would not have been so peculiar. Now it's a bit odd. Still, I liked it, mostly. There were some witty lines here and there, and the soundtrack's pretty good. However, it's John Cusack's character that really saves the film. I enjoyed his retorts to the main character Amy. Wow, was she obnoxious.

vieras esine
vieras esine

Super Reviewer

½

People often celebrate independent films as an oasis of creativity in comparison to the cookie-cutter blockbusters that populate Hollywood. However, indie film can have just as many formulaic, half-baked, cookie-cutter films that waste your time. Case in point, the indie comedy Adult World, a movie that feels out of time and lost. 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-

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

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