While “Adult Beginners”(expanding to theaters nationwide May 1) has a smattering of entertaining moments, they do not distract from the absolute lack of narrative or relatable character arch for any of the characters.
In short: Self-involved, failed entrepreneur Jake (Nick Kroll) loses everything on a bad investment and is forced to move in with his sister Justine (Rose Byrne), her husband Danny (Bobby Cannavale) in Jake’s old home town. (watch the trailer)
It’s tough to pin down exactly what this movie is supposed to be – its three main characters are clearly struggling with some variation of disappointment in their lives … but only Jake’s storyline is addressed in any way. Setting up character arches, only to neglect them, is the surest way to undermine any story.
Find showtimes for “Adult Beginners”
The only storyline that seems to matter is Jake’s arch – and even that one is ill-served by this clunky and forced plot. He’s allegedly the small town guy destined for greatness – but Jake never, ever displays his alleged acumen for finances. The audience is just supposed to take it on blind faith that Jake is a fund-raising genius, with a great eye for financial investments.
The problem with never getting to see how or why Jake became successful becomes frustrating because so much of the plot focuses on that part of his life. What lead to his ruin, how he convinces a neighbor to give him a job in the financial sector — these are all plot points only alluded to through lazy exposition or events that occur off-screen. Making little to no effort to adequately develop what is supposed to be the way Jake defines himself and his success gravely undermines a story that is apparently about Jake’s journey to redefine himself and his view of success.
The casting of Kroll, Bryne and Cannavale is the only thing that saves “Adult Beginners” from being flat-out bad. These three have a charm that somehow overrides their otherwise flat characters who do some pretty unlikable things. This movie merely treads water on the pure likability of is trio of main characters – but “likability” is rarely enough to elevate a movie above such lazy storytelling.
There is a genuine core to “Adult Beginners” – a movie about adults dealing with relatable disappointments and unexpected changes in life. To see such potential squandered with some half-assed storytelling, underdeveloped character development and too many predictable plot points is unfortunate.
Final verdict: This attempt at a dramedy brings nothing new to the table to the long list of “moving back home to rediscover yourself” films. It is not endearing enough to be loved, amusing enough to be considered generally funny or compelling enough to be genuinely moving. “Adult Beginners” relies too much on its comedy to make it “likeable,” but neglects its dramatic aspects to make it meaningful on any level.
“Adult Beginners” expands into theaters nationwide May 1 and is rated R for language and some drug use.