(Photo : Treehouse Pictures)
The transition from adolescence and adulthood is usually marked by the engagement in a career or employment opportunity. Oftentimes that transition is more difficult for some, especially those entering into the arts. For those individuals, the idea of rising to prominence as an artist is a perpetual dream that may never come to fruition. Scott Coffey's "Adult World" emphasizes the difficulties of striving for this dream and the maturity required to make it a reality.
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Amy (played by Emma Roberts) studies at Syracuse University, but her behavior would imply that she is in high school. Many would immediately point to the fact that she is living at home with her parents, but the real flashing lights of her persistent childhood include her unrealistic outlook on her poetic ambition. She sends out applications repeatedly and expects her parents to foot the bill each time. She has no interest in getting a job and even when she eventually does, she shows no respect for the work she does. She has never had a boyfriend or engaged in sexual activity; she notes that these are unimportant trifles that would get in the way of her artistic aspirations. At one point early in the film, she calls her college life a prison of sorts; the kind of phrase one would expect from a high school student, not a college undergraduate. Eventually Amy is forced to take a job at a porn shop called "Adult World" and her journey to adulthood begins. Despite the new job, she seeks out an apprenticeship with her favorite poet Rat Billings.
Roberts' brilliant performance only accentuates this childish behavior. Early on Amy is asked to read a poem to her class. She delivers the reading in a boastful, over-emphatic way; almost a sign of her feeling of self-importance. She speaks in a feverish high pitch that is constantly mocked by others and her energetic movements hint at a teenager in the midst of adolescence rather than a maturing woman. When she isn't speaking in the feverish pitch, she is reciting poetry in everyday speech, a hint at her snobbish aspirations. During one scene she dances about with her cross-dressing friend Rubia (Armando Riesco). While Rubia moves with more control and sensuality, Amy looks clueless and silly on the dance floor; once more that comparisons with a young girl are apt. In another scene, she attempts to seduce Billings but her inexperience shines through; Roberts imbues the character with a deep voice that is over-the-top and emphasizes Amy's childishness and lack of womanly tact. Even though she retains some of the overdramatic touches in the film's final act, Roberts makes Amy a more reserved person and slowly reveals her maturity. The operatic gestures and high pitched voice disappear and are replaced with a more relaxed persona; one that has finally felt the brunt of failure and come to terms with who she really is and what she really needs to do to get what she wants.
Cusack is formidable as Billings. He is sassy, derisive, and sarcastic, but evolves into a comprehensive being. In their final scene together, Roberts and Cusack engage in a splendid repartee that starts off emphasizing their often tumultuous tutelage, but ends with the two enlightened by one another as equals. Filling out the strong cast are Riesco who brings tremendous comic touches as Rubia and Evan Peters, who portrays Amy's reserved male doppelganger Alex.
Director Scott Coffey keeps the film moving by keeping it light amidst its darkest moments. In one scene, Amy confronts Billings over an insulting action he has just incurred on her. Even though this is undoubtedly a low point for Amy, Coffey has her throw chairs and dish out poetic insults that keep the mood light-hearted despite the pain of the character. As the scene draws to an end, Cusack adds another subtle flourish that adds to the humorous content. However, that particular scene, and others like it, never feels manipulative; Coffey maintains respect for his characters and never pushes them into unrealistic behavior that makes the moment about the laughter.
"Adult World" not only refers to the store that Amy works at, but her own entrance into that part of life. The adventure is one that all viewers can identify with and its presentation and style is certainly one of the most engaging and entertaining at the festival thus far.
"Adult World" screens April 20 and 26th; its premiere took place on April 18.