Adult Beginners fits the mold of a mid-life/family crisis film and, while the story has a few unique points and comedic moments, it mostly has been done before.
Think of it as a toned-down version of Sisters mixed with a little bit of Happy Christmas.
I am by no means saying Adult Beginners (streaming on Netflix) is an intentional copy cat of other titles, but it wasn’t original enough for me to stand out from similar independent or bigger-budget films.
I was excited to see it for Nick Kroll’s role in developing the story along with Liz Flahive and Jeff Cox, who wrote the script.
I’ve been a fan of Kroll’s comedy from the since of the baby character and El Chupacabra on Comedy Bang! Bang! and it’s intriguing to see his different performances on screen, especially when he has a hand in them.
Kroll plays Jake, a down-on-his-luck entrepreneur who needs to live with his sister Justine (Rose Byrne) and her husband Danny (Bobby Cannavale) until he gets back on his feet.
They live in Jake and Justine’s childhood home, which the couple is trying to sell before they have another baby. Jake begins to help around the house and babysit his nephew, Teddy.
It could have gone any way from there, but like other similar films, the living arrangement begins to test the relationship between Jake and Justine against her marriage and own family life as all the characters work through their own issues.
They’re all starting over again in some ways and it doesn’t work well under one roof.
The downfall of Kroll’s performance as Jake and the script is he goes too far to be funny on a few occasions while the more emotional scenes with Justine fell flat and didn’t seem to have any heart or, for lack of a better term, real emotional depth.
All the characters’ relationships and plot points are presented mostly on the surface level and in such a way that you only see a glimpse of the potential for a strong film.
I admire Kroll and think Adult Beginners is a sign of what’s to come as he continues to expand his creative work in comedy and in film.
Now, without further ado, it took me three listens (worth it) of the Sally Field and Michael Showalter interview on Nerdist to find this quote. I wrote down the wrong time stamp during the first listen, found a different quote I liked to use for a different blog, and then welcomed the excuse to give it a third try knowing I didn’t imagine hearing this. Sally Field has had a long and impressive career and much of the interview focuses on her and the partnership with Showalter to make their new film, Hello, My Name is Doris. I recommend it, even if you only listen once like a normal person, and cannot wait to see this film.
“It’s what you do during those really down times that really inform who you’re going to be for the rest of your life.”
— Sally Field