Synopsis: A young, hipster entrepreneur (Nick Kroll) crashes and burns on the eve of his company’s big launch. With his entire life in disarray, he leaves Manhattan to move in with his estranged pregnant sister (Rose Byrne), brother-in-law (Bobby Cannavale) and three year-old nephew in the suburbs – only to become their manny. Faced with real responsibility, he may finally have to grow up – but not without some bad behavior first.
Release Date: April 24, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Adult Beginners exists in that indie comedy space where the component parts are familiar and the fundamental changes are slight. It’s a film that will draw comparisons to a dozen other films, all of which would be accurate, but even then it’s a suitable piece of entertainment. The film is what most would call a safe movie, and that’s a fair assessment. Does that make it any less entertaining? No.
In his first leading role, comedian Nick Kroll (A Good Old Fashioned Orgy) plays Jake, a sarcastic entrepreneur struck by unexpected failure. Forced to return to his hometown with his tail between his legs, Jake visits his sister Justine (Rose Byrne from Neighbors) and her husband Danny (Bobby Canavale) in the hopes of finding a place to crash for a bit. However, it isn’t long before Jake realizes that this temporary solution may be a long-term one, and he’s soon forced to face many of the responsibilities he shunned earlier on in life.
Most will be able to predict where Adult Beginners goes from there as the indie comedy follows a predictable path. The film does deal with realistic adult problems (parenthood, jobs, marriage) and its themes will certainly resonant with a lot of younger couples. Sure, similar ideas and plot points are present in plenty of other movies, many of them indie comedies as well, but they are no less poignant here. That being said, the predictability does diminish some of the impact.
It’s a credit, then, that the film moves at a brisk pace like any good indie comedy should. Adult Beginners is structured in such a way that every scene feels essential to the plot and moves us towards its crowd-pleasing conclusion. There’s some really earnest acting and writing in the film, to the point you connect with almost every one of the characters on some level. Jake is obviously the hardest and most narcissistic of the bunch, but he fits that “changed man” role well.
Adult Beginners doesn’t go for the big laughs or the raucous gags, but roots its comedy in the insightful observations about mundane family life. Again, there’s nothing audiences haven’t seen before, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With solid performances from its leading actors and an honest story that doesn’t fly too far afield of its comfort zone, the film succeeds in being entertaining without relying on cheap tricks. Sometimes you just want a simple heartfelt comedy and Adult Beginners fits that bill nicely.
While few tend to acknowledge the acting in a comedy, it’s worth pointing out Nick Kroll’s performance if for no other reason than he succeeds at both playing with and against type. Given his previous roles, Kroll fits right in as a snarky, responsibility-shunning little brother, but it’s his more emotional scenes that are the most effective. Kroll turns in a surprisingly heartfelt performance, proving that he is capable of being more than just the sarcastic comedic relief.
Alongside Kroll, Adult Beginners‘ remaining cast members, chief among them Rose Byrne and Bobby Canavale, provide the grounded center of the film. As a real life couple, it most likely wasn’t hard for the two to play off each other, but they do well to create the duality of a marriage. You feel the genuine connection but you also understand the latent resentment.
Even so, there’s nothing about the acting as a whole that one would call outstanding. Which isn’t surprising given the material follows a set of predictable beats. As a whole, the performances can best be summed up as serviceable, although Kroll does surprise with some flashes of range.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Ross Katz
- Screenwriter(s): Jeff CoxLiz Flahive
- Cast: Nick Kroll (Jake)Rose Byrne (Justine)Bobby Cannavale (Danny) Joel McHale (Hudson)Caleb and Matthew Paddock (Teddy)Caitlin Fitzgerald (Kat)Jane Krakowski (Miss Jean)
- Editor(s): Paul Frank
- Cinematographer: Vanja Cernjul
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Marcelo Zarvos
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA