We at ISCFC are dedicated to reviewing films off the beaten path (or, in the case of marklongden, plumbing the depths of depravity). This means we watch a lot of terrible films.
You’re welcome, internet.
One of the things I’ve learned from all these terrible films is that there is never an excuse for a bad script. Bad direction, bad effects, bad acting, they are all, somewhat, forgivable. But bad writing? Nope. Never. I mean, that’s literally the beginning of the process.
Maybe I am looking at this simplistically but, if you remotely care about the quality of your film, why on Earth would you decide to film a badly written script?
The point I am making is that, like a lot of the crappy movies we review, most independent films don’t have a lot of money behind them. But by their very nature, the script has to be good, otherwise they don’t get made.
You don’t need a massive budget to make a decent genre movie (fans are actually much more forgiving in that regard). The most important part is telling a good story, which is what your typical indie movie is all about (and why I tend to drift toward that category when looking for something to engage me).
Anyway, maybe if your typical SyFy or Full Moon movie had the same level of attention paid to the script as your typical ‘indie’, there would be a lot more low-budget yet still decent science fiction, fantasy and horror movies.
Moving on to the actual review now… Adult World is your typical indie film: character focused, real world setting, quirky characters and featuring music from a band only fans of indie films have probably heard of…
I need to stress that Independent movies aren’t a genre, despite what Netflix professes. They are relatively low budget feature films, not made by one of the major film studios (Pulp Fiction is an indie film by that definition). It just so happens that this lack of budget and major film studio does tend to garner a certain type and style of movie, to the point where it kind of is a genre. If that makes any sense?
Adult World is a perfect example (almost cynically so) of this.
It follows Amy (Emma Roberts), a would-be poet fresh out of college, struggling to find paid work in her field. Her parents inform her that they can’t afford to pay for her to just bum around trying to get her poetry published while she has thousands of dollars of student loans to be paid. So she decides to enter the adult world by getting a job.
Only a degree in poetry doesn’t prepare you for getting a job in said adult world. Unless of course, you are talking about Adult World, the porn shop, which is where Amy ends up working with Alex (Evan Peters).
Amy learns her favourite poet, Rat Billings (John Cusack) is doing a book signing. She follows him home and through sheer force of personality gets him to become her mentor.
The problem with Amy, in context of the movie, is that she is exactly that kind of over-earnest post-adolescent who genuinely thinks they have lived and felt real emotion. When Rat asks her why she thinks she can write poetry, she comes out with a line that you just know that in a few years time she will remember it and just cringe. But the thing is, she hasn’t lived: she hasn’t had her heart broken, she hasn’t travelled, she hasn’t done anything.
Several times people ask why she’s using that voice. Amy is confused by this, wondering what’s wrong with the way she speaks. Obviously the subtext is that she hasn’t found her artist’s voice and it’s these little subtle lines and ideas why I enjoy indie cinema so much.
There is a key moment in the movie when you realise exactly the sort of artist Amy is. She learns one of her friends is a really good painter. She asks “Have you ever shown these?” and the response is “No. They’re just for me. Haven’t you ever just written poetry that’s only for you?” and her response is a blank look before replying “Why would I do that?” or some such.
She later claims she was in the 97th percentile for the SATs. She got straight A’s. She deserves to get what she wants. Because Amy doesn’t understand that technical ability is not enough.
The way I have described her, might make you think Amy wants a wake up slap round the face. Maybe she does. But the thing is that she is very likeable. So likeable that no one wants to be the one to burst her bubble.
So with all that, is the film any good?
Well, it isn’t massively original. Remember when I said it that indie movies aren’t a genre but kinda are? Well, this has so many of the hallmarks of an indie movie (alternative soundtrack featuring non-mainstream bands, older actor wanting to do something different…) that at times I felt it was made by someone wanting to make exactly that kind of movie. A quick check of IMDB reveals the director has acted a lot but only directed one other movie.
Still, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. All the performances were fantastic (John Cusack was absolutely perfectly cast as the aged, sardonic Rat Billings), the story was good (the script is Smart) and brought something new to the table, and predictably, I liked the soundtrack a lot.
TL;DR “Pretentious art student learns to be less pretentious.”