Dir: Scott Coffey. US. 2013. 97mins
As an up-and-coming teen actress, Emma Roberts has flirted with big-screen stardom in a series of movie vehicles, and while she has always been an appealing actress never seems to get the attention she deserves. In Scott Coffey’s Adult World she is a dynamic and engaging presence brimming with youthful dynamism and passions but balanced and some nice underplaying at times. And if the film somehow lacks a dramatic pace to set it apart from other indie US titles, then credit should go to Roberts for giving it real life.
Emma Roberts is bundle of charm and energy and in particular her sparky and sparring relationship with Cusack’s cynical poet is nicely handled and never clichéd.
Coffey, whose debut was 2005 Sundance selection Ellie Parker, does a pretty good job in pulling together the disparate story strands of Adult World. With strong performances by Emma Roberts and John Cusack (relishing play odd and quirky as always) the film deserves to find theatrical attention.
Roberts plays Amy, a naïve and at times awkward young woman determined to make a career as a poet (naturally Sylvia Plath is her heroine), but told by her parents in a bland upstate New York town that they can no longer afford to subsidise her attempts to get published.
She grudgingly take a job at a sex shop called Adult World, where in amidst the sex toys and sticky videos her views on life start to change. She gets along with sweet-natured manager Alex (Evan Peters) and against-all-odds bonds with diva transvestite Rubio (Armando Riesco), but her highpoint comes when she meets reclusive poet Rat Billings (Cusack) at a rare book signing.
A fan of his work – she comes across one of his books in a rather contrived scene where she fishes his book from an abandoned car laden with books – she pursues him and essentially forces him to be her mentor, in exchange for cleaning his ramshackle house. He wants nothing to do with her, but Amy’s sheer determined exuberance means she won’t take no for an answer.
Her journey towards adulthood – or embracing an ’adult world’ – may take a familiar filmic route, but Emma Roberts is bundle of charm and energy and in particular her sparky and sparring relationship with Cusack’s cynical poet is nicely handled and never clichéd. The film may end on a nicely predictable high, but it is engagingly watchable and scattered with moments to cherish.
Production company: Treehouse Pictures
International sales: (US) CAA, www.caa.com
Producers: Justin Nappi, Kevin Turen, Joy Gorman, Alex Goldstone, Manu Gargi
Executive producer: Mohammed Al Turki
Screenplay: Andy Cochran
Editors: David Heinz, Gina Hirsch
Main cast: Emma Roberts, Evan Peters, John Cusack, Armando Riesco, Cloris Leachman, Shannon Woodward