February 28, 2014 at 8:14 am

Review: 'Adult World' simply too childish to work

Emma Roberts stars as a naive young college graduate and John Cusack plays her favorite poet in 'Adult World.' (Tribeca Film Festival)

A scattershot affair that leans on unlikely characters, “Adult World” is just too far-fetched to be worthy of the actors involved in it.

Standing center is Emma Roberts — constantly red-nosed in the brisk air of upstate New York — playing Amy, a virginal, absurdly naive recent college grad who believes she’s destined to be a great poet. Although no one much cares for her poetry.

Deep in student loan debt and with no work experience, she takes job at a porn shop as a clerk. This is the sort of porn shop that’s owned by a sweet old couple, managed by an easygoing guy named Alex (Roberts’ “American Horror Story” co-star Evan Peters) and has very few customers. There’s also a transvestite named Rubia (Armando Riesco) who hangs around, mainly because it’s fun to have transvestites in movies like this.

Amy’s favorite poet is a washout named Rat Billings (John Cusack), who conveniently happens to live in town and she pesters him into being her mentor, which mainly means she gets to clean his house. The film’s best moments consist of Billings bashing Amy over the head with her own innocence.

But that ridiculous innocence undercuts the entire film. No good reason is given as to why Amy — who has, after all, gone through high school and college in suburban America — might be so empty-headed, inexperienced, isolated and oblivious to her own condition. You don’t get to that age without encountering reality.

Or you do in a film built on conveniences and comfortable stereotypes. “Adult World” is a coming-of-age story in which the starting age seems to be approximately 9. As a result, it just doesn’t work.

'Adult World'


Rated R for sexual content and some drug use

Running time: 97 minutes


More Tom Long