Critics' Pick

Adult World (R)

Comedy 97 February 14, 2014
By Stephanie Zacharek
Every once in a while a terrific small-budget indie comes along and nobody even blinks. Adult World, directed by Scott Coffey (known mostly as an actor, particularly for his roles in David Lynch movies like Mulholland Dr. and Lost Highway), could easily get lost. It shouldn't. Emma Roberts stars as Amy, an aspiring poet living in a small American city. She's certain it's just a matter of time until she's published by the New Yorker; when her parents explain that they can't afford to float her indefinitely, she takes the only job she can get, as a clerk at a porn store, but throws most of her energy into chasing the poet she idolizes, the misanthropic Rat Billings (Jon Cusack). Amy might have some talent, but from the bits of her poetry she reads aloud in an over-eager squawk that causes Rat to wince, it's not likely. That's what makes Adult World so surprising, and so weirdly moving. Amy is among the first generation of American kids who have been raised to believe they can do or be anything. Her confidence is stupendous; any actual abilities she may have shrink in its shadow. Even though she spends much of the movie bragging about the future success she's sure she'll have, you still feel something for her. As the film makes clear, she's smart and sensitive and just needs to find the right way to push out into the world, though it may not involve success or fame. As Rat tells her, in one of his kinder moments, "If everything were great, nothing would be great. Nothing would be special."
Scott Coffey John Cusack, Emma Roberts, Armando Riesco, Shannon Woodward, Chris Riggi, Darin Scott, Scott Coffey, Jo Mei, Leah Lauren Andy Cochran IFC Films

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