Sleeper Hit “Adult Beginners” Is A Marvelous Gem

By Scott Kurland

Film: Adult Beginners
Starring: Nick Kroll, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, and Joel McHale
Rated R
Director: Ross Katz


Why is it so easy for comedic actors to transition into more serious roles? Adam Sandler did wonderful work in Judd Apatow’s “Funny People”. Jim Carrey was heart breakingly good in “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”. Let’s not forget about how terrifying and amazing Albert Brooks was in “Drive”. For some reason naturally funny people find serious roles to slip into easily and it works. This week’s film “Adult Beginners” is a dramedy starring comedian Nick Kroll. Does this indie film have the heart and drama to be a winner? Lets find out shall we?

“Adult Beginners” stars Kroll as Jake, a former business wiz, who makes one bad investment and loses everything. Jake has no money, no girlfriend, and for some strange reason all of his friends seem to disappear once his success vanishes. Left with one option Jake returns to his home town to live with his sister Justine (Rose Byrne) and her husband Danny (Bobby Cannavale). What started out as a trip for self worth turns into an employment option when Danny offers Jake a job as nanny. Will Jake find his self worth as a new caretaker to his nephew? Or will he always be an “Adult Beginner”?

I’ve always been a fan of Kroll’s because of the TV show “The League”. Kroll has a Jeff Goldblum like quality to him, that may sound off putting but I assure you it is a compliment. Kroll could have made Jake a real jerk from the beginning, but he doesn’t. Jake is trying to find himself, and from his first line of dialog he says how much he cares about people. In most films like this, the lead is a self loathing narcissist with little redeeming quality. What’s refreshing about Kroll and “Adult Beginners” is the fact that Jake is a good person, he’s selfish, but in the way that you or I are selfish. Kroll makes Jake one of the most well rounded and fleshed out character I have seen since Paul Giamatti in “Sideways”.

I always get a kick out of when Byrne and Cannavale are cast in a movie together, simply because they are a real life couple. I was worried we’d have a “Gigli” situation where both actors would have no chemistry, but that’s far from the truth here. Cannavale and Byrne bring their own chemistry to the screen, a relaxed and honest approach of what a relationship is. Neither character is perfect, but they try their best....or what they think is their best. Cannavale has always been good at playing the New Jersey Everyman. You know the type of guy I’m talking about, rough around the edges, but is a good person deep down. Like someone from a Bruce Springsteen song. Byrne has the frazzled working wife role down at this point, and she gives one of the most earnest performances of a guidance counselor that I have ever seen.

“Adult Beginners” is directed by Ross Katz, and it’s his feature debut. For a first film it’s quite impressive, it’s not too heavy, nor is it too over the top. The script by Jeff Cox and Liz Flahive is wonderful, and they successfully adapted Nick Kroll’s screen story. The dialog is real and raw, the pacing of the film is perfect, and this is another one of those rare situations where the right people for the roles were cast.

“Adult Beginners” could have fallen into several movie cliches, like Jake becomes too domesticated and when he finally gets a real job he leaves it. I know twists like that show a character’s change but they’re not necessary. “Adult Beginners” actually references that and I’m glad they did. This is a wonderful film set in a very real world. “Adult Beginners” is now playing in select theaters and available OnDemand and Amazon instant video. This is a must see.

REVIEW RATING: B+


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