a young woman stands in front of a classroom, reading from an open book
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Adult World (Not That Kind of Adult World)

This week’s film underlines the “adulting sucks” element of fuck-ups month while highlighting the unintended but nevertheless important motif of the Cusack siblings.

The Film:

Adult World

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

A recent college graduate must rethink her plans to become a bohemian poet when faced with that pesky necessity of moving out of her parents’ house and earning an income.

The Uncondensed Version:

Despite no longer being a teen, recent college grad Amy is the epitome of an angsty teenager.  Her hero is Sylvia Plath, she has a stack of poems reserved for posthumous publication, and she makes a couple of halfhearted suicide attempts with an oven and an Adult World plastic bag.  The symbolism in this movie—it’s not subtle, but that’s ok.

a young woman leans against a wall decorated with 1st place ribbons and a poster of Sylvia Plath
Not proud, but this is pretty close to what my room looked like for a good 7 years.

Amy was the overachiever, pretentious as hell, straight-A student in college.  Her closest encounter with the opposite sex was with the equally pretentious poet/artiste in a writing class who read aloud his poem about absinthe and turned out to be a total dickbag.

After earning her BA in poetry, the only thing Amy knows is that (a) Rat Billings, alternative poet in the Beat tradition, is her hero, and (b) she must dedicate her life to her craft.  This leads to (c), she will be spending a significant amount of the next year or so living with her parents.

Amy’s parents are quite supportive, but even they eventually object to her living rent-free and using her parents’ money to submit poetry to every magazine she can think of…only to receive rejection after rejection.  Much to her dismay, the only job she manages to snag is at the porn shop Adult World, run by an elderly couple.

The manager, Alex, is conveniently about the same age as Amy, and looks close enough to Anton Yelchin for my heart to break.  Adult World must be one of the only places on the planet where you can rent porn, for those convinced the internet is a government tracking device.  Alex gives Amy the lowdown on the genres and arrangement of the films, which is pretty interesting to me as a librarian.  As with library collections, Adult World sees its share of sticky video returns (gross gross gross gross gross).

Around this time, Amy has her first interaction with Rat Billings (John Cusack), the poet she idolizes.  As a poet who achieved early success, Rat is now a grumpy old asshole, and immediately resents Amy’s devotion to his work.

Shortly after, Amy meets Rubia, a friend of Alex and a transwoman.  Amy does not play it cool at all, making a terrible first impression with Rubia.  However, she manages to turn things around when she and Rubia share a bus ride.  Rubia quickly becomes the only person Amy can count on when her parents are tired of her being a deadweight.  Perhaps a little too quickly, but I like their relationship so IDGAF.

a trans woman wearing a colorful shirt stands next to a young man wearing a black shirt
Rubia’s shirt may have predicted the rise of Pokemon Go…

All of this works as a setup for Amy and Rubia stalking Rat on a tandem bicycle.  I’m sorry, but I think you would realize if 2 women on a tandem bike were following you—it is perhaps the least conspicuous type of bicycle.

When she catches up with Rat, Amy asks if he will read her poetry.  He rather rudely declines, but Amy is persistent and chooses to interpret his sarcasm as agreement.  In the following weeks, Amy manages to become his protégé, though that essentially involves cleaning his house, following him to the university classes he teaches, and sitting through his sardonic tirades.

a man sits on a chair in an office, sewing a piece of clothing
Also shirt repairs that don’t seem to be particularly effective.

Things get uncomfortable when Amy dresses a bit like a cat/femme fatale and tries to catch Rat’s eye.  This backfires horribly, though later Rat reveals he’d like to include Amy’s work in an anthology.  Amy is too excited to suspect Rat’s sudden attitude adjustment may hide ulterior motives.

It’s all going to unravel at Amy’s birthday party, attended by a few family, friends, and Rat, of course.  Spoiler:  Rat acts like a…rat.  How will Amy react when her last idol falls from his pedestal?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

The plot is somewhat meandering, and the story lines don’t flow particularly well into each other.  I loved the character of Rubia, but she seemed there mostly to underscore how progressive and open-minded Amy is, and that just didn’t sit right with me.  Since this is a coming-of-age story, there’s also a major focus on Amy losing her virginity, which will obvs magically transform her into a woman and complete her as a person.  Not great.

That being said, I’m rounding up from 3.5 because I was almost the literal embodiment of Amy’s character as a high school/college student .  Just insufferably enthusiastic about melodramatic poetry, establishing which writers are the good ones, and making some sort of “Top 25 Under 25” list.

I related to Amy’s character to a painful degree and still haven’t learned some of the things she did in the film.  As a former overachiever, she looks for validation in all of the wrong places and is surprised when she gets no recognition just for trying.  She also has to stop constantly looking ahead to success, fame, legacy (all of which are fleeting anyway) and focus on what she can learn when life doesn’t go the way she expects it to.

This film’s tone successfully balances sympathy for its protagonist while acknowledging how absurd some of her problems are, especially as she creates them herself.  I feel that, Amy.

What did the blog wife think?  Is this film the good kind  you can find at Adult World or the kind that’s been returned sticky?  Read her review here to find out!