Emma Roberts in Adult World


DIRECTOR: Scott Coffey

CAST: Emma Roberts, John Cusack, Evan Peters, Shannon Woodward, Cloris Leachman, Armando Riesco


RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

RATING: 2 stars (out of 5)

Theresa Smith

BILLED as a satirical comedy, Adult World is light on both.

But it does in a roundabout way introduce a very millennial theme – that the desire to be famous for making art does not necessary equal the desire to make art.

“Fame is your generation’s black plague,” punk ’90s poet Rat Billings (Cusack) says to wannabe poet of her age, Amy (Roberts), and this pretty much sums it up.

Amy wants to be a poet more than anything else, but she wants to be a poet, not express her identity or some deep-seated emotion burning a hole in her heart.

The naive college graduate starts working at an adult shop because she has no experience doing anything. She wants to take on the world in rhyming couplets, preferably in a stage voice while striking a silhouette.

When she sees her favourite author, Billings, she hounds him and inveigles herself into his life in search of a mentor.

Some of the better, more intriguing scenes are the interaction between Amy and Rat, with her wide-eyed sense of I’m-so-darn-special and his cynical take on I-used-to-be-special-but-not-any-more.

His admonishment to go out and experience life so as to gain a bit of perspective falls on deaf ears.

He is wonderfully restrained, while Roberts borders on this side of manically determined.

Despite working in a place that attracts some eccentric characters, Amy keeps her head firmly in her own notebook and doesn’t notice the world around her or sweet Alex (Evans) behind the counter, who is interested in her.

The film is about a 22-year-old learning that navigating the adult world means going out there and gaining some experience, of anything and everything, but the way it tells the story is decidedly itself a lesson in inexperience.

First-time director Scott Coffey uses all the tricks and stereotypes in the book to tell his story – a wintry landscape to mirror the desolation of Amy’s existential plight, a drag queen named Rubia (Riesco) to show that a diversity of friends widens your circle – and of course only in an adult store could people in a film actually talk about sex.

Amy’s absolute naivete comes across as contrived because your first response is to wonder how a university graduate could not have seen something of the world, simply by dint of getting to know any other student at the university.

Strangely enough, the tweens who could glean something from what is really a coming-of-age feature would not be able to watch it because of the scattered swearwords and implied sexual content.

There is potentially a good movie bubbling under the surface in the interaction between Amy and Rat and especially in the hinted-at desperation of her struggle to make a success of her life, but this is overtaken by the tedious melodramatic whining.

If you liked Poetic Justice, you will like this.