Jake (Nick Kroll) is a successful entrepreneur who’s secured millions of dollars of his own and other’s money to create a new glasses technology. When things go horribly wrong, he loses all his money and need to take a timeout on his life. Fortunately, his sister Justine (Rose Byrne) still lives in their childhood home with her husband Danny (Bobby Cannavale) and their son Teddy. Since he doesn’t have a job, he’ll need to be Teddy’s nanny, something no work he’s done could have prepared him for.
Adult Beginners is another family comedy-drama which works especially well because of its charismatic cast. The film does deal more with the brother/sister dynamic, but it doesn’t get nearly as dark as something like The Skeleton Twins. This is also yet another film that finds Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale married on-screen, just like how they’re married off-screen. The theater was crowded, the audience was receptive, and this is a film that will play well in theaters. It’s also a film that could play quite well at home because it’s not too long and it’s very easy to watch.
Nick Kroll has found a lot of success on Comedy Central with The Kroll Show, a sketch show which involved Kroll playing many wild characters, and now he’s beginning to transition into larger film projects. He plays a version of himself that’s similar to the Nick Kroll who does stand-up, meaning you get crass humor from someone who delivers deadpan jokes with a bit of a smolder. His timing is wonderful and his interactions with Byrne and Cannavale always prove humorous, most oftentimes when he’s mocking their parenting abilities. He gets across that his character is out of his element, but his performance consistently gets better as the film goes on. He’s someone you enjoy watching and want to see more of and this is a good film to gain him some notoriety.
Rose Byrne, whom I saw for a brief moment at the Four Seasons in Austin, is as lovely and as kind in person as the character she plays. She’s also extremely funny in a more subtle way than her male counterparts, making her jokes feel more relaxed when she delivers them. The character she’s played in her most recent comedies is one where she feels the need to prove that she can be hip and cool, but here she’s a mother and her life is hectic. Her subtle commentary about being pregnant while having to raise a child is hilarious and she knows exactly how to react with her face when her son misbehaves. Byrne also gets to be a little more emotional than we’re used to seeing her be, only adding more layers to her character and the film itself.
Bobby Cannavle really won me over with his performance in Blue Jasmine and since then it’s been very easy to get behind any role he’s playing. Despite not playing the perfect husband, Cannavale exudes this desperate need to be with his family and to be a large provider for them. He realizes that he’s made mistakes, but he’s not a bad guy and as an audience member, you never think he’s bad either. Cannavale’s love shown for his with and child in the film is very sweet to watch and he brings a fair amount of emotion into play as well. When he’s alone with Kroll, the two share some great comedic moments together that will leave everyone laughing pretty hard.
Director Ross Katz is relatively new to the directing world and while it doesn’t seem that way in the film, there are some smaller issues with the film’s progression that keep it from being something great. The film dives into the family dynamic in the middle of the film, but it seemed like there was still a lot more to discuss. There’s a whole micro-story with Byrne and Kroll’s parents and their childhood that would have been a goldmine for emotion and humor. Given that the film is and feels like a quick 90-minutes, there could have been more time fleshing out those micro-stories and the friendship between Kroll’s and Cannavale’s character.
Adult Beginners doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it has a voice and does add something a bit more to the genre than most commercial comedies that you’ll watch. The story isn’t anything you haven’t heard before, but the efforts by the actors bring refreshing execution to their roles. The idea for the story came from Nick Kroll and it’s nice to see that his writing efforts are also being noticed and implemented in an industry that honestly needs some new comedians. Whether you watch this in theaters, or at home, you’re going to have a good time with the little time you spend with these characters.
Adult Beginners Trailer