Treasure This Film
Some movies deserve to be treasured -- and Adult Beginners is high on my list. I even teared up at the end of this touching dramedy about regular people dealing with the kind of family problems many of us face in our own lives at one time or another. And thatís a big surprise, because I very seldom cry watching a film. But the characters seemed so real to me, thanks to a great cast headed by Rose Byrne, Nick Kroll, and Bobby Cannavale.
Flawed relationships form the core of the story here. Jake and Justine, played by Kroll and Byrne, are siblings who havenít seen each other in years. Danny, portrayed by Cannavale, is Justineís husband. After Jakeís business venture crashes and results in loss of his money as well as funds of the investors he recruited, he ends up at his pregnant sisterís house and asks if he can stay for a few months. Danny and Justine reluctantly agree, but only if he takes care of Teddy (Caleb and Maddock Paddock), their rambunctious three-year-old son, while they are at work. Jake knows nothing about youngsters, but he and Teddy hit it off, so the fun begins -- and so does Jakeís re-evaluation of his selfish life goals.
Unfortunately, Jake finds out that Danny seems to be having a fling with a stunning co-worker. Should he tell Justine? Should he confront Danny? Or should he say nothing at all? In the meantime, Jake and Justine argue about why Jake didnít come home when their mom was ill as well as over the proposed sale of their family home, and so forth. But they also share some nostalgic moments together and appear to be getting closer.
My advice? Donít worry about the plot. Just concentrate on the way these fine actors draw us to their characters and show how much they care about each other, despite their faults. Simple little things like bringing a toothbrush and toothpaste to a tired wife in bed or jumping in a swimming pool even though afraid of the water -- and most of all, those caring facial expressions. Of course, interesting dialogue ("Don't kiss me so it hurts!") also helps.
Although Iíve been impressed with Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids) and Bobby Cannavale (The Station Agent) for a long time now, Nick Kroll (A Better You) is new to me. He provided the story for Adult Beginners, so he probably realized Jake needs to be both funny and sad. Mission accomplished! And Cannavale still projects a marvelous screen presence. Plus, Byrne is a revelation in her key role here. She has to display many emotions as Justine -- and succeeds so well that we know what sheís feeling even when she's silent.
Kudos to director Ross Katz (TVís Taking Chance) for helming an excellent first feature as well as to writers Jeff Cox (Blades of Glory) and Liz Flahive (TVís Nurse Jackie) for including the most wonderful sequence of a mom in labor ever on film.
(Released by Radius-TWC and rated ďRĒ for language and some drug use.)
For more information about Adult Beginners, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.