No more and no less than a solid middling comedy.
In the age of the coming-of-age comedy, nothing is more prevalent than indie music montages and sad sap protagonists with remarkably expensive looking hipster clothing. Thankfully, Adult Beginners really has neither of these characteristics. The characters in Adult Beginners are past the point of coming-of-age, and therein lies the point. It may be formulaic and glossy in its ultra quick stereotypical depictions of IPOs, swim classes, successful entrepreneurs, awkward home town reunions, etc., but judging the film on these miscues is to miss the (aforementioned) point. What Adult Beginners does well is allow its very talented cast to execute a cute story featuring very familiar circumstances and themes.
Actor/comedian Nick Kroll (The League, The Kroll Show) takes a good step here towards more serious or darkly comedic roles. He plays Jake, a man who loses everything in a moment’s notice when his tech company’s IPO hits an (unlikely) atomic bomb of a snag. With no money and no friends, he goes to stay with his sister, Justine (played by Rose Byrne), her husband (Bobby Cannavale) and son Teddy (played by twins). Like Skeleton Twins, also produced by the seriocomedy factory of Duplass Brothers Productions run by Mark and Jay Duplass, the best aspects of Adult Beginners is in the chemistry between Jake and Justine. I’m not sure when something inside Rose Byrne’s brain triggered the need to seek out comedic roles (Neighbors, Bridesmaids) but I thank the heavens for it!
We’ve all been there, when we must confront aspects of our awkward or less-than-stellar childhood, and Adult Beginners does a fine job adding some delightful humor to the proceedings. The most prevalent theme here is delayed maturation and valuing family above all else. Good stuff. Respectable stuff. Some select emotional moments and a few welcome comedian cameos add to the overall experience and make up for the contrived bookends to the story. Adult Beginners isn’t the type of film I would say “you don’t want to miss,” but as it finishes it’s limited theatrical run and finds its way onto streaming platforms, I wouldn’t recommend skipping over it either.
Adult Beginners opens in select Bay Area theaters today, April 29th.