Adult Beginners (2015) Movie Review: Sweet, Yet Milquetoast Indie Dramedy

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for each indie cliche

Take a Drink: anytime the characters do

Take a Drink: everytime the characters smoke pot

Take a Drink: each time the characters (try to) swim

Do a Shot: for each Kroll quirk

This explains itself.
This explains itself.

Do a Shot: for each weird outfit Jake wears

Community Review

How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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Movie Review

By: Matt Conway (Four Beers) – 

Continuing to become one of the more underrated comedic talents in Hollywood is Nick Kroll. Like many, I first saw Kroll on FX’s The League, and was immediately enamored by his hilarious, yet arrogant persona on the show. On such a strong show, he always seemed to be one of the highlights. Kroll also has created the underrated variety program The Kroll Show, which showcased an impressive variety of characters up Kroll’s sleeve.

Certainly dedicated to the job...

Certainly dedicated to the job…

Like most comedic actors, Kroll is now looking to expand to making more movies. Similar to Bill Hader in The Skeleton Twins, Kroll is now trying his hand at indie dramedies with Adult Beginners, which is a film I was very much anticipating before its release. A cast featuring Kroll, Rose Byrne, and Bobby Cannavale looked incredibly solid, and early trailers displayed a promising little film. Sadly though, Adult Beginners is an amusing, yet middle-of-the-road flick.

Adult Beginners follows Jake, an entrepreneur who is lost when his last enterprise falls apart. He is forced to move in with his sister Justine, in exchange for which he has to help babysit her child and take on more responsibility.

A Toast 

The cast here is quite good. Nick Kroll obviously has a great deal of comedic talent, but is able to give a solid performance in the leading role. As Jake, Kroll paints a well-realized character, someone who after having his life fall apart has to pick up the pieces and find himself again. Kroll shines especially in the film’s dramatic moments, showing a side of himself audiences have not seen before.

The supporting players are also quite good. Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale play Jake’s sister and her husband, which is not too much of a stretch considering they are in a relationship in real life. Byrne continues to prove herself as an incredible charming actress, as she provides quite a few laughs while being very much capable of the film’s dramatic moments. Cannavale along with Joel McHale and Jane Krakowski do solid work in their respective roles.

They both made the Annie remake tolerable.

They both made the Annie remake tolerable.

Easily the best aspect about Adult Beginners is the brother and sister relationship between Kroll and Bryne. Despite not really looking a lot alike, the two are very believable in their respective roles. The two have great chemistry together during both the film’s more light-hearted comedic moments, but also when they begin to fight. Their dynamic is the heart and soul of the film, and is the center to most of the film’s few highlight scenes.

Beer Two

Adult Beginners feels very tonally uneven at times. The first hour or so is mostly light-hearted, as Jake essentially adjusts to his new life as a babysitter. The film, however, makes an uneasy shift towards drama after the hour mark, with this transition feeling very much out of nowhere. Instead of building up to these big moments, they just kind of happen, catching the audience off guard.

Despite featuring a great deal of great comedic talents, the film is a lot less funny than one would expect. That is not for a lack of trying, as there are several efforts at trying to get big laughs. A lot of these moments involve cameos, from the very talented Mike Birbiglia to Kroll’s The League co-star Jason Mantzoukas. Most of these scenarios present in Jeff Cox and Liz Flahive’s script largely miss the boat, which is a letdown. If only the film trusted its leads more to improvise, the laughs certainly would have been more substantial.

As Rafi, Mantzoukas steals every scene in The League.

As Rafi, Mantzoukas steals every scene in The League.

Beer Three

Even when the film gets serious, Adult Beginners lacks any sort of dramatic depth. The script here essentially tackles the idea of the importance of family and finding your place in life, and tackles these ideas in a very basic way. The script never goes anywhere above that base level, leaving many of these supposedly big thoughtful moments to have little impact.

Beer Four 

Adult Beginners‘s biggest error, however, is just how familiar it all feels. The film certainly means well throughout its running time, but the film is never able to be anything more than just kind of sweet. A lot of the story and ideas here feel very much like aspects that have been done before and better in far more substantial films. Adult Beginners honestly is almost eerily similar to last year’s The Skeleton Twins, with the latter having far more dramatic depth and emotionally impact.

Not to mention one of the greatest lip-syncs ever

Verdict

Adult Beginners simmers throughout, but never is able to fully boil to life. The cast is likable, and there are some sweet moments, but the film largely suffers from feeling all too familiar and basic.

About Matt Conway

I love movies and sports and run on sentences. You can find me at a basketball court, the local theater, or napping on a couch somewhere.

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