Carter (Adam Scott) is a successful restaurant owner, who happens to be a “Adult Child of Divorce.” His parents, Hugh (Richard Jenkins) and Melissa (Catherine O’Hara), have been divorced for over 15 years and refuse to be in the same building, much less, the same room. Their marriage was so contemptuous and combative that the cops were called during Carter’s 9th birthday. Hugh and Melissa life’s work seems to be to make each other as miserable as possible. Both parents have since remarried, with Hugh on wife number 3 (or is it 4?) who happens to always be a much younger woman.
This has had an effect on Carter and his outlook on life. Carter is in a long term relationship with Lauren (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a yoga instructor, but any time marriage is brought up all Carter can do is turn the subject into a joke. His life becomes complicated when his younger brother, Trey (Clark Duke) announces that he is getting married to Kieko (Valerie Tan), a girl he has only known for 6 months. Carter does everything in his power to try and get Trey to elope or at least not invite their parents to the wedding, but Trey is determined to have his parents at the event. Carter, always the peacemaker in his family, must now figure out a way to get his parents to at least tolerate each other until the ceremony is over.
Complicating matters further, Carter discovers that his childhood therapist, Judith (Jane Lynch), who helped him come to terms with his parents’ divorce really isn’t a therapist but a researcher, who wrote a best-selling book called A.C.O.D., and made Carter the main subject. Now she wants to write a follow up to the book on how the children that she studied have turned out as adults.
For such a great cast, which also includes Jessica Alba as a fellow A.C.O.D. book subject and Amy Poehler as Hugh’s current wife-du-jour, this film should have been a blast to watch. Unfortunately, the film never really finds it’s comedic tone and many of its scenes go on way too long.
Adam Scott makes a good Carter, a sort of everyman who on the surface seems to have everything handled, but we just know that might not really be the case. Scott is a good looking guy and has wonderful chemistry with Windtead’s character, which makes it more believable that she would stay with him for so long without going down the aisle. Unfortunately, Scott isn’t given much to work in terms of the script and is overshadowed in scenes, especially the ones with his parents.
Richard Jenkins steals the movie with his over the top father who sees his behavior as being correct and justified. Jenkins plays Hugh as a self-assured man who feels his ex-wife was conceived by the devil himself, just to torture him and he is willing to go to any length to get back at her. Lynch, who could read a phone book on screen and still be funny, is one of the best things about this film. In a very understated performance, she seems to always manipulating Carter, mostly for her own gain. We do get the feeling that she cares for Carter and realizes that he needs to grow as a man before he can really have any chance at a happy life. The rest of the cast just isn’t given much to do. Winstead, though sweet and beautiful, is given a part that doesn’t seem to have much of a backstory so she her character is used as almost a prop. Alba is wasted as a temptation for Carter, someone who can relate to all his parent horror stories while being the bad girl, an almost the opposite of Winstead’s ultra-nice character.
Director/co-writer Stu Zicherman doesn’t help with the energy and the pace of the film. As most of his camera placements are still and unmoving. Making the film, even when set outside seem a little claustrophobic. I felt that the film got too out of hand in the second half of the film, as the script kept creating situations that were often ridiculous and predictable. The film seems to always have the fallback of just getting its characters to scream louder and louder, not giving them the dialogue that would make the scenes funnier.
“A.C.O.D.” is a supposed to be comedy, that should have been a fun and lighthearted look at dealing with the everyday aspect of divorce and what effects it had on the children. Instead it comes off as a film that has very little joy and filled with a great cast that just doesn’t have the material to work with to make it work.
My Rating: Cable
“A.C.O.D.” is currently playing in Atlanta, Ga at AMC Barrett Commons 24