The coming-of-age formula is a tired and familiar one. There are plenty of obligatory cinematic troupes it must follow: the protagonist is unsure of themselves, the protagonist lands a crummy job before major life-changing event, be it college, university or career dream, the protagonist’s parents lack understanding and/or support, and the protagonist finds their first love. Adult World follows these troupes closely but does so with very little depth, humour or conflict.
College graduate and aspiring poet Amy Anderson (Emma Roberts) takes up work at a local adult store, where she begins to form a friendship with Alex (Evan Peters) and Rubia (Armando Riesco) who teach her of the adult world. Amy also becomes her favourite poet, and her personal hero, Rat Billings’ (John Cusack) protégé.
Director Scott Coffey is beginning to show maturity in this, his second feature, by moving away from the Dogme 95/found-footage style of his first feature Ellie Parker. Unfortunately this film still creeks with signs of amateur filmmaking. It’s apparent Coffey hasn’t quite mastered off-beat comedy this film attempts at, for a number of the jokes either fall flat or don’t go anywhere.
The film’s sincerity resonates via Amy’s character as it utilises her naiveté and socially awkward carelessness as a trajectory into maturity. Her sexual inexperience and childish reactions to alternative lifestyles attempts to balance child-like sniggering with charming curiosity, but unfortunately the film doesn’t offer any insight to these changes and therefore doesn’t warrant the immaturity preceding it. This is also greatly hindered by Amy’s natural selfishness, which makes it difficult for audiences to sympathise with her. Roberts’ over-the-top performance doesn’t help either as it becomes unbearable at times, most notably when she either becomes excitable or unsure of herself.
The main redeeming quality of the film is Billings’ character and the performance delivered by Cusack. It’s a character that could’ve easily fallen prey to embittered literary tutor and ex-famous poet but Cusack’s restrained performance and uniquely written traits prevents this.
Adult World will resonate with anyone looking retrospectively at their youth but the central character is too obnoxious to engage or empathise with. The film offers minimal insight into its politics and is an overall humourless affair. It’s only Cusack’s performance that will sustain the audiences’ attention in this depthless, by-the-numbers teen flick.
Adult World was released nationwide on 4th August 2014.
Watch the trailer for Adult World here: