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Review: Adult Beginners

Nick Kroll and Rose Byrne star in Radius-TWC's "Adult Beginners"

Starting a business puts you in a position to take on an insane amount of responsibility. Not everyone can handle that, but for those who can, it can be a rewarding experience with positive outcomes. Unfortunately, success doesn’t always follow the hard work that’s put into it. As we see in Adult Beginners, the level of failure that can be experienced has the ability to lead you to question the choices you’ve made in life.

In Adult Beginners, we see a man who’s hopes of becoming a successful entrepreneur fall apart on the eve of his promising company’s official launch. Devastated, Jake (Nick Kroll) gathers some of his belongings and leaves Manhattan to move in with his pregnant sister (Rose Byrne), her husband (Bobby Cannavale) and their three year-old son in their suburban home. He just seems to want some time to think, but he’s faced with some other forms of responsibility that will see him put in a position where he’ll have to find out what’s truly important to him.

What I found odd about Adult Beginners is that you never really know what it’s trying to tell you in terms of story or plot. It’s difficult to say that there really even is either of those features at the core of this picture. The characters are interesting enough to get you to pay attention, but I can’t say that any of them are good enough to make the movie an experience that’s truly enjoyable. Under normal circumstances, that’s where the story would come in to assist in creating that.

The lack of an actual story or plot hurts the movie in a way that one may expect, but it may have also been a negative in terms of the significant moments. That’s because Adult Beginners doesn’t really have any defining moments throughout any of it. When watching any movie, you anticipate some kind of legitimate payoff in some form to come your direction, but that simply never happens here. The only moments of note are in the early portions of the film when they’re trying to set things up in the opening act. Other than that, it’s essentially the audience watching these people be who they are.

Including the stuff in the opening act, they do eventually introduce some features that could be used to build on, but they either leave them unfinished or tie them up as neatly and quickly as possible. Even if you’re going to give us that type of conclusion, it doesn’t have to be so spotless. This makes what they do try to finish this stuff off seem less meaningful. Yeah, there’s a sense of conflict here, but there needs to be some type of consequence. Maybe there’s a lesson learned or something like that, but this doesn’t feel like that ever takes place.

On the plus side of Adult Beginners, I do like the characters for the most part. None of them are amazing or all that memorable, but many have personality traits that would make you want to see them in a positive light. The main thing that prevents you from truly embracing their characters goes back to the lack of closure to most of the story lines that are apart of who they are.

From a comedic standpoint, you’ll find something to laugh about at certain points during Adult Beginners, but there isn’t anything to love when looking at the film in its totality. With all of the decent pieces that are scattered around here, it’s unfortunate that it leaves you wanting more and feeling a bit dissatisfied with the movie as a whole. A little more effort in the script could have turned this into something worthwhile.

Rating: R

Director: Ross Katz

Nick Kroll
Rose Byrne
Bobby Cannavale
Caleb and Matthew Paddock
Paula Garces

Film Length: 90 minutes

Release Date: April 24, 2015

Distributor: Radius-TWC

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