Directed by Scott Coffey, it is his second feature length film sitting in the driver’s seat and perhaps best known as the film that brought Evan Peters and Emma Roberts together, Adult World was produced in 2013 and not released till 2014 it has John Cusack doing “John Cusack” and is all about youth, ambition, dreams, poetry and pain. It is a comedy.
A pretty good one in fact. Following the adventures of Amy (Roberts) who is a wannabe poet that has a poster on her wall about Sylvia Plath. She graduates college and has difficulty finding a job. Her father tells her that they can no longer support her dream of being a published “wunderkind” poet and that she needs to find a job. In the middle of winter she learns that these are scarce and ends up working in an adult sex store.
There she meets the manager Alex (Peters) who shows her the ropes after the shop’s owners, Mary Ann and Stan hire her (a delightful pair of cameos by legendary actress Cloris Leachman and longtime prolific actor John Cullum). She also meets transgender “diva” Rubia, played by Armando Riesco (National Treasure, Garden State) who hates her on sight but later helps the youngster out.
Before leaving college, Amy discovers a book of Rat Billings’ poetry (Cusack) and becomes a diehard fan. She meets the man at a book signing and alternatively gushes all over him and convinces him she is a deranged stalker. He ends up becoming a reluctant mentor while acting like an all around heel.
This film is funny, despite the fact that Cusack could have phoned his part in. The role of curmudgeonly “over-the-hill” wunderkind poet was not a stretch for the actor although he pulls it off just by being “John Cusack.” Evan Peters, who proved back in 2010 in Kick-Ass that he could do a comedic role, is brilliant as the slightly quirky sex store manager.
The film belongs to Emma Roberts however. Her performance as the immature Sylvia Plath idolizer, which then changes to “Rat Billings” fan, is just brilliant. Emma, daughter of Eric and niece of Julia, Roberts can do comedy. Full stop. Her timing was good and while she’s proven that she can do horror, Scream 4 (2011) and American Horror Story season four, she shows in Adult World that, like her the rest of her acting family, she can do pretty much anything.
The only real complaint about the film is its message which states, via the vitriolic Rat Billings, that not everybody can be great and that if everyone was talented the world would be a pretty boring place. That one ambiguous statement is tempered a bit by the publishing of Amy’s first story; a bit of sexy prose written by a virgin that is printed in an adult magazine and the fact that one never really believes Billings when he says it.
Adult World works mainly because of the chemistry between Roberts and Peters. Of course the two sparked off one another so well that a real life romance ensued but, to be fair, Emma had great interaction with everyone on the film, even Cusack who did not appear to put a whole lot of effort in his role. (Having said that, his character was pretty non-interactive and fairly weird…so Cusack could have been, in fact, acting his little cotton socks off.)
It is quite nice to see Malcolm in the Middle actress (she plays the teacher who recognizes the boys high IQ) Catherine Lloyd Burns who played Amy’s mother in the film.
The film is on Showtime, via Hulu as add-on, and is worth the time spent watching it. Just the pot scene (“My teeth feel so big!”) alone is enough to make the film a good one. This coming of age feature works and the only shame is that the two love interests are no longer together in real life. A 4 out of 5 star film losing a whole star mainly because of Cusack’s apparent lack of interest.