Adult Beginners (2014)

Adult Beginners (2014)
  • Time: 90 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama
  • Director: Ross Katz
  • Cast: Nick Kroll, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Joel McHale


A young, hipster entrepreneur (Nick Kroll) crashes and burns on the eve of his company’s big launch. With his entire life in disarray, he leaves Manhattan to move in with his estranged pregnant sister (Rose Byrne), brother-in-law (Bobby Cannavale) and three year-old nephew in the suburbs – only to become their manny. Faced with real responsibility, he may finally have to grow up – but not without some bad behavior first.

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  • Mark and Jay Duplass serve as executive producers in Adult Beginners, which already generates a generous amount of goodwill for the film. Individually and collectively, the Brothers Duplass imprint their work (Jeff, Who Lives at Home, HBO’s Togetherness, Netflix’s Transparent) with an openheartedness and generosity, making their efforts consistently rewarding viewing.

    Written by husband-and-wife team Jeff Cox and Liz Flahive, Adult Beginners isn’t altogether different from last year’s wonderful The Skeleton Twins in that estranged siblings reconnect after one experiences a crisis, with tensions arising from unresolved issues. Jake (Nick Kroll) seems on the verge of financial success with the launch of the latest in wearable technology. A manufacturing glitch crumbles the dream within minutes, leaving Jake penniless and scorned by his investors.

    He turns up at his sister Justine’s (Rose Byrne) door, hoping to lick his wounds in the comfort of their old childhood home. Justine and her husband Danny (Bobby Cannavale) take his unexpected presence as an opportunity to decrease their stress load. Since Jake isn’t doing anything anyway, why doesn’t he look after their three-year-old son Teddy (Caleb and Matthew Paddock); they’ll even pay Jake $300 a week. After a couple of obligatory hiccups (Jake trying to go to the bathroom whilst keeping Teddy in sight, Jake rolling Teddy to the park in a suitcase after failing to unfold the stroller), the needy and self-absorbed man-child finds his groove, even managing to romance a nanny (Paula Garcés) he meets on the playground.

    Despite all appearances and a genuine love for one another, Justine and Danny’s marriage is not without its problems. Between her job as a teacher, looking after the household, and being 13 weeks pregnant with her second child, Justine barely has any attention left to lavish on Danny. The neglected Danny finds his fidelity wavering. Jake, meanwhile, is navigating the bitterness he has for his father moving on so quickly after his mother’s death as well as the resurfacing resentment Justine feels for having had to pause her life to take care of their ailing mother.

    Ross Katz, making his directorial debut, does a fine job balancing the comedic and dramatic elements. He also possesses a keen instinct for finding each scene’s emotional beats. His lead trio share a lovely and lived-in chemistry, which only further underlines the layered and textured narrative. Kroll proves as adept in drama as he is in comedy (his Ruxin on FX’s The League might be one of the most delightfully abrasive jerks of all time). Cannavale is endearing as is Byrne, who has seamlessly transitioned into one of our most reliable and underrated comedic talents. Together they create a winning look at the stops and starts of beginning adulthood.

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