Adult Beginners

Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale (a real-life couple), who were previously seen at SXSW promoting Spy, have now appeared in four films together. In Adult Beginners, co-written by Nick Kroll, the laughs are much more honest and natural, unlike the ridiculous antics in the Melissa McCarthy film. We follow a 30-something wealthy businessman who loses everything and must retreat to stay with his pregnant sister as she hectically runs a family. The story appears to be about Kroll’s character learning how to jump-start his adulthood, but what we realize is that his older sister and her husband are just as deficient in adulthood. The film is a light comedy, but there are some seriously sweet moments in the film that touch on a wide range of emotions.

Jake (Kroll) shows up at his sister’s door, asking to stay for three months. He doesn’t even know she is pregnant with number two, having not seen her for at least a year. Justine (Byrne), discussing it with her husband Danny (Cannavale), decides only to let Jake stay if he helps watch their rambunctious three-year-old Teddy. Jake isn’t a family person or very good at being an uncle. Actually, he isn’t a good friend, brother, or brother-in-law. He came to his family looking for sympathy and restructuring, but he walks into a family dynamic he isn’t prepared for. Secrets and resentment begin to fill the air in the crowded household, and they all learn how to function as adults, one mishap at a time.

Seriously sweet moments in the film that touch on a wide range of emotions.

The script seems to have something to say about career mothers, younger siblings, and cheating husbands. The script feels effortlessly funny which might be thanks to the talent or the writing, it’s likely both. Byrne and Cannavale always feel underserved when they step into mainstream large-budget films and here return to their independent and comfortable roots. Kroll, mostly known for his TV work, really anchors the film with his performance, which always feels fresh and authentic. The script panders a bit, heating up towards the end when some of the underlying truths come out.

Television comedians Jane Krakowski and Joel McHale are very underutilized in their bit parts, which, just based on their range, should have produced far more laughs. The script does contain clever moments like when Jake can’t figure out the stroller and uses a suitcase to pull Teddy around. All three characters get enough screen time that we feel we understand their specific place in life, their needs, and certainly their mishaps. The message here is adulthood and maturity are hard, and being married, having kids, or even being successful doesn’t automatically thrust you into a grownup. Just like a three-year-old learning to swim, sometimes you have to start at the shallow end and work your way forward.

Final Thought

Not always compelling, it mostly works based on a cleaver script and good acting.


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