×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Tribeca Film Review: ‘Adult World’

John Cusack's delicious star turn bolsters Scott Coffey's satirical, Syracuse-set coming-of-ager

With:
Emma Roberts, John Cusack, Evan Peters, Armando Riesco, Cloris Leachman, John Cullum, Catherine Lloyd Burns, Shannon Woodward, Reed Birney.

A naive young poet with an inflated opinion of herself reluctantly accepts work at a sex shop while stalking her reclusive idol in Scott Coffey’s satirical, Syracuse-set coming-of-ager, “Adult World.” Coffey’s loose, casual style, tilting toward the performance-centric and improvisational — as with his 2005 debut, “Ellie Parker,” starring genius-caliber actress Naomi Watts — cannot fully accommodate the presence of former kidvid starlet Emma Roberts (“Nancy Drew”), heading an otherwise comfortable, quite excellent cast. Nevertheless, the film’s coyly titillating subject matter and John Cusack’s delicious star turn as a curmudgeonly, once-lionized poet should support a limited run.

Amy (Roberts) has somehow managed to reach 22 years of age with a college degree and little knowledge beyond an unshakeable belief in her own soon-to-be-feted genius. She writes bad, melodramatically anguished poetry under a poster of Sylvia Plath, convinced she need merely submit samplings of her oeuvre to be showered with prizes and acceptance. So fixated on ersatz suffering and imminent fame, Amy doesn’t even notice her parents’ gentle downward economic slide until they inform her they can no longer support her tortured-poetry habit: She has to get a job.

Once employed at the rather bare-bones Adult World, owned by an earthy older couple (John Cullum and an underutilized Cloris Leachman) and managed by curly-haired young Alex (an impressive Evan Peters, adding depth of understanding and empathy to his sexy-cute role), Amy remains oblivious to the scant sex toys and X-rated DVDs around her, writing self-absorbed poetry and lusting for the chance to be mentored (read: insulted) by her favorite living writer. That would be superannuated “angry” poet Rat Billings (Cusack), who is appearing at a book signing. A series of misfortunes, though, finds Amy temporarily rooming with Rubia (Armando Riesco), a caustic transgender person with a heart of gold but limited patience; Riesco turns what might have been a cliched disaster into a believable study of awkward elegance amid tackiness.

Popular on Variety

For the most part, Coffey and scribe Andy Cochran (TV’s “Restless Virgins”) alternate scenes of Amy’s cluelessness at work, where she barely notices customers freely shoplifting, and her bold attempts to throw herself into Billings’ path; these latter sequences sometimes evoke the flavor of 1964’s intergenerational masterpiece “The World of Henry Orient,” with its hero-worshipping tween team determinedly harassing concert pianist Peter Sellers. Amy rudely rushes up to the head of a book-signing line, sans book, or doggedly pursues Billings with Rubia on an improbable tandem bicycle. At Billings’ house, she raps tirelessly on his window until the beleaguered poet, annoyance warring with amusement, is forced to let her into his life as slave labor and butt of all jokes — which, to his continued astonishment, slide right off her back, her self-esteem seemingly impervious to attack.

The film’s satiric intent crystallizes in these heated, communication-free confrontations between Roberts’ Amy and Cusack’s Billings, each representing a different generation’s sense of entitlement — she the coddled result of an oversensitive education system, and he a petulant, now-aging enfant terrible. The improvisational zeal with which Cusack approaches his role (absent  from his miscast villainous turn in “The Paperboy”) is particularly fun to watch.

Lenser James Laxton and production designers Jeff O’Brien and David Storm organically incorporate upstate New York’s inclement weather into the mix, lending Syracuse’s wintry cityscapes a sense of genteel shabbiness.

Tribeca Film Review: 'Adult World'

Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (Spotlight), April 20, 2013. Running time: 97 MIN.

Production: A Tree House Pictures presentation in association with Anonymous Content of a Tree House Pictures production. (International sales: Hyde Park Intl., London.) Produced by Joy Gorman, Alex Goldstone, Kevin Turen, Manu Gargi, Justin Nappi. Executive producers, Mohammed Al Turki, Paul Green. Co-producer, Summer Shelton.

Crew: Directed by Scott Coffey. Screenplay, Andy Cochran. Camera (color, HD), James Laxton; editors, Gina Hirsch, David Heinz; music, Dan Boeckner, BC Smith; production designer, Jeff O’Brien, David Storm; costume designer, Meghan Kasperlik; sound, Mike Gurarino; supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer, Eric Hirsch; casting, Jennifer Euston. 

With: Emma Roberts, John Cusack, Evan Peters, Armando Riesco, Cloris Leachman, John Cullum, Catherine Lloyd Burns, Shannon Woodward, Reed Birney.

More Film

  • Days of Christmas

    Pau Freixas on Netflix Spanish Miniseries ‘Days of Christmas’

    BARCELONA – A Netflix original produced by Spain’s Filmax, “Days of Christmas” marks the new series of Pau Freixas, one of the highest-profile creators on Spain’s vibrant drama series scene. A three-part miniseries, “Days” will be made available worldwide by Netflix on Dec. 6. The story takes place over three different Christmas days, the first [...]

  • Writers-Room-Panel

    Ventana Sur: Argentine Directors on Benefit of Writers’ Room (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — Ventana Sur hosted two of the country’s leading screenwriters to relay the benefits of utilizing a writers’ room while conceptualizing fiction projects, delivered to a packed auditorium on Tuesday afternoon as part of the Fiction Factory series held at the UCA Campus in Puerto Madero. Director Daniel Burman, known for films such [...]

  • Kathleen Kennedy to Receive Prestigious BAFTA

    Kathleen Kennedy to Receive Prestigious BAFTA Fellowship

    Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm and producer of scores of movies, will receive a prestigious BAFTA fellowship, the British Academy’s highest honor, in February. Across a 40-year career, Kennedy has produced pictures that have garnered 25 Oscars and more than 100 BAFTA nominations and 27 wins. She will be honored with the fellowship at BAFTA’s [...]

  • Lee Byung-hun stars in "The Man

    Lee Byung-hun’s ‘Man Standing Next’ Secures 2020 Asia Theatrical Releases (EXCLUSIVE)

    Showbox’s political drama “The Man Standing Next” has secured releases in multiple territories in Asia. The film was picked up by Falcon for Indonesia, The Klockworx for Japan, Viva Communications for the Philippines, Shaw Renters for Singapore and by Moviecloud for Taiwan. Release dates in each territory have yet to be confirmed. Set 40 days [...]

  • Lulu Wang and Zhao Shuzhen'The Farewell'

    Zhao Shuzhen on Stealing Scenes in Her First American Movie, 'The Farewell'

    A year ago, 76-year-old actor Zhao Shuzhen shot her first American movie, “The Farewell,” based on writer-director Lulu Wang’s very personal family story. In November, Shuzhen found herself making her first visit to the States, where she earned standing ovations from audiences and posed for pictures with stars like Robert Pattinson at parties. Then she [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez and Director Lorene Scafaria

    'Hustlers' DP Todd Banhazl Discusses How Not to Shoot With the Male Gaze

    Cinematographer Todd Banhazl had to rethink conventional wisdom in shooting Jennifer Lopez starrer “Hustlers.” What sort of approach did you and director Lorene Scafaria discuss in terms of how you were going to shoot the women and create these strong images of strippers? From the beginning, we talked about this idea of control and the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content