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dir Stu Zicherman
scr Ben Karlin, Stu Zicherman
prd Ben Karlin, Tim Perell, Teddy Schwarzman
with Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara, Clark Duke, Amy Poehler, Ken Howard, Jane Lynch, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jessica Alba, Valerie Tian, Adam Pally, Steve Coulter
release UK Apr.13 slf, US 4.Oct.13
World War III: O'Hara, Jenkins and Scott
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
There's a strong autobiographical feeling to this comedy, in the sense that director-cowriter Zicherman is using it to work out his own issues as an ACOD, an adult child of divorce. But it feels like an act of therapy rather than an organic story. Fortunately, the strong cast of comedy experts make it very funny.
Carter (Scott) is horrified when his little brother Trey (Duke) announces his engagement to Keiko (Tian), because this means their parents Hugh and Melissa (Jenkins and O'Hara) will need to be in a room together. They "turned a nine-year marriage into the Hundred Years War", and have been fighting for 20 years, even though both have new spouses (Poehler and Howard). In a panic, Carter looks up his childhood therapist Dr Judith (Lynch) only to find that he was the subject of a book about children of divorce.
Yes, after all these years, Carter is still caught between his feuding parents, and in Dr Judith's book he discovers that he's also a victim. And now the subject of her new book on ACODs. All of this unfolds in an episodic, scene-based plot that feels rather stagey in the way each encounter builds to some sort of farcical climax. It's infused with sitcom logic as the seriously unstable Carter tries uselessly to control everything.
The gently comical tone is livened up with zinging dialog. But encounters often tip over into over-scripted Meet the Parents-style humiliations, such as the dinner with all the potential in-laws. These kinds of scenes make the film feel both contrived and rather smug. So it's a good thing that the cast is so good at finding feisty comedy in each scene. All of them are on sparky good form, but Jenkins gets the best dialog and delivers it with deadpan accuracy.
As the actors help us enjoy even the more predictable moments, our patience is more seriously tested when the filmmakers lurch into an oddly preachy tone. Simplistic messages include: growing up is painful, we never quite escape our childhood issues and marriage isn't about stability. So the climactic showdown feels both forced and unenlightening. But at least the coda has a clever ambiguity to it that sends us out with a smile.
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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