Release Date: October 4, 2013
Cast: Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clark Duke, Amy Poehler, Jessica Alba, Jane Lynch
Director: Stu Zicherman
Studio: Black Bear Pictures
Distributor: The Film Arcade
Divorce is a tricky subject. So many of us now have experienced it either as children of divorced parents or going through divorces of our own. For me, I was legally an adult when my parents got divorced, but it was still a rough time period and I feel like it still effects how I interact with my parents now. Especially when I have to talk to my dad for my mom because somehow, it’s impossible for her to shoot him an email to ask basic things like how long his storage unit is open. They really only talk when it regards financials, it seems.
A.C.O.D. is a film that’s about the continuing fall out of dealing with divorced parents and how it effects the children as adults. The film centers around Carter (Adam Scott), a restauranteur who has been the go-between for his parents since their divorce when he was nine. He’s generally well adjusted, with a successful business, a lovely girlfriend of four years named Lauren (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and a rather lovely apartment in Castleberry Hill. (Okay, the film isn’t explicit about where it is set, but I live in Atlanta where the movie was filmed. It was hard not to notice.)
However, Carter’s seemingly well adjusted life is turned on its head when his little brother Trey (Clark Duke) gets engaged to his girlfriend of four months Kieko (Valerie Tian). The two want to have a wedding, but don’t want to do it without Carter and Trey’s parents. The problem is that their parents haven’t spoken in 20+ years and refuse to even be in the same room as each other. The two of them start sniping at Carter, threatening to not even show up to the wedding if the other is there. Needing some help, Carter seeks out his old therapist Dr. Judith (Jane Lynch) to figure out how to deal with his parents. That’s when she tells him that she’s not a therapist, but a researcher who was doing a case study on children of divorce. She even wrote a book about it! Carter finds the book and after reading it, he feels empowered to bring his parents together to make them sort their own problems out.
And that’s when things start going downhill.
The overall plot of A.C.O.D. feels like a movie I’ve seen a million times before and have read the book those movies were based off of two million times. Guy is trying to live a normal life away from his dysfunctional family. Something happens that causes the family to come back into his life. Guy starts to have a mental breakdown about his own life due to events caused by his family. Guy needs to sort out his own life and eventually reaches an ambiguous conclusion about it. It’s tried and true, but still kind of boring. I get it. Your family is terrible and you’re more messed up because of it.
However, the way the film approaches how adults deal with their divorced parents is part of what makes it worth the watch despite the recycled plot. As the credits reveal, many of the crew members of the film are A.C.O.Ds like Carter and Trey. Even writer and director Stu Zicherman, who based the film off of some of his own experiences. Which is probably why it feels so real. It doesn’t play up divorce like an after school special. It shows it as something we deal with as a fact in our own lives. It’s a film I kind of wish existed when my parents broke up because there isn’t a lot of media and resources for adults dealing with divorce, either as a longtime thing or as a new development.
Another reason the film is worth the watch is the cast. I love Adam Scott and he pulled off the exasperated adult dealing with unreasonable adults without feeling too much like Ben Wyatt. The film gets surprisingly dramatic at points and he carries it so well. Mary Elizabeth Winstead does a great job being the calm, supportive girlfriend and I’m glad the film never took a turn to making her seem like she was boring or bitch, even though I kept expecting it to. Jane Lynch is top notch as usual and I feel like Amy Poehler was underutilized as Sondra, Carter’s second stepmother. Her scenes were always hilarious and it made me sad that her and Carter barely interacted. Then again, I’m a massive Parks and Recreation fan, so I know full well what kind of chemistry Poehler and Scott are capable of.
The real runaways of the cast though have to be Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara as Carter’s parents Hugh and Melissa. They do an amazing job playing dysfunctional divorced parents that it sometimes felt too real whenever they’d snipe at Carter or each other. They’re unreasonable and ridiculous and Jenkins and O’Hara carry it so well that you’re laughing while remembering how crazy your own parents are.
The only weak link of the cast is Jessica Alba as “Claire,” one of the other subjects featured in Dr. Judith’s book. I don’t think that’s necessarily her fault though. She does just fine with the scenes she has. However, I feel like the character of “Claire” (who’s listed as Michelle on IMDb) was supposed to be a bigger part of the storm that develops in Carter’s life, but ultimately ended up being lost on the cutting room floor. I kind of hope that’s the case because in the final edit of the film, “Claire” seems kind of superfluous to the actual story. Which I’m sort of conflicted about. I did want more of how Carter interacts with the other A.C.O.Ds, but I feel like it might have slowed the film down or compromised Lauren’s character just because Carter echoes his father and has an affair with “Claire.” Well, that almost happened, and I’m thankful it didn’t. For all the stereotypes I feel like it did hit, I’m glad they avoided (or at least cut out) the main guy having a Manic Pixie Dream Affair along with portraying divorce like a kid’s film.
Even with a tired indie movie plot, A.C.O.D. takes a realistic look at dealing with divorced parents. It’s not roll in the aisles funny, but a strong cast makes the movie and gets a few relatable laughs out of the audience. Definitely worth the watch if you’re a fan of Adam Scott, but don’t go into the film expecting Ben Wyatt and Leslie Knope on the big screen just because Amy Poehler is there as well.