Tribeca Film Festival Review: Adult World

by Olivia Saperstein

Pairing porn and poetry together isn’t a common feat, but Scott Coffey pulls it off with his latest feature, Adult World. Emma Roberts is Amy, a recent college graduate from the suburbs of Syracuse. Upon returning home, and this ain’t no Hotel for Dogs, her plans to become the next Sylvia Plath are stifled when she runs out of cash, and is forced to get a job at a sex shop. Amy may be a virgin, but her naivete gives birth to a strange oblivious courage—one rare found in characters of today.

While I still find it unbelievable that anyone can make it out of college with their legs closed (similar skepticism arose with 50 Shades of Grey), Amy’s brand of idealism is one that I was all too familiar with in college; casting off all notions of a relationship to pursue the higher terrene of education. Once entering what baby boomers call “real life,” such an attitude can be buckling.

Roberts channels Amy’s anxiety with spritely energy, a wide-eyed critter scratching through the disappointments of life. At the store, she meets manager Alex (Evan Peters), cute in the college-y way, and the cross-dressing diva Rubia (Armando Riesco). The threesome sparkle up a chemical jizz-storm with their friendship, reminding us that growing up only allows us to deepen our relationships.

In order to stay connected to her poetry, the eager Amy stalks favorite poet Rat Billings (John Cusack), a sardonic and wrinkled Bukowski wannabe, into being his assistant. Their relationship is where Andy Cochran’s writing is propelled into first-string lexicon. When Amy defends her writing by rattling off her SAT scores, Billings responds, “Believing in the SATs is like believing in Scientology.” Cue post-Clinton chuckle.

The film is relevant, and clearly the fuzzy offspring of John Hughes. Yet it doesn’t conceal the disappointments that white upper-middle class suburbanites face post-college. While sometimes feeling slightly infantile, it succeeds in resuscitating a value that can be found in any job; that not all of our efforts need to be made a spectacle, and that if we open our minds just a little bit, happiness can be erected in unexpected places.

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