Movie Review | ‘A.C.O.D.’ fails to live up to potential of cast
Published: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 01:10
“A.C.O.D” (the acronym stands for “Adult Children of Divorce”) is difficult to categorize. It can’t be classified as a romantic comedy because the romance is minimal, but it’s not exactly a comedy-drama, since it features only melodrama at best. As for comedy — in spite of a plethora of top-notch comedians — it simply falls short of funny.
“A.C.O.D.” follows the story of a grown man named Carter (Adam Scott), who believes that his parents’ traumatic divorce is behind him even when his younger brother’s engagement causes the issues of his past to resurface. To make matters worse, Carter finally learns that he was the subject of a study conducted by his “therapist,” Dr. Judith (Jane Lynch) — who, it turns out, was not really a therapist, but rather the author of a New York Times bestseller about children of divorce — for which Carter was interviewed without his consent. Inspired by his brother’s nuptial plans, Carter plans to reconcile his mother and father and negotiate a truce between the once feuding ex-spouses. Unfortunately, his plan works too well and his problem swings to the opposite side of the spectrum: Now he cannot tear his parents apart.
Whatever novelty existed in the storyline is erased by a mediocre script populated with caricatures rather than characters. This is Stu Zicherman’s directorial debut, so perhaps he should be cut some slack, but this movie does not presage a successful directing career in his future.
Carter is an ordinary guy — a restaurant owner who has turned over a new leaf since his parents’ divorce during his childhood. He has a good-looking yoga-instructor girlfriend of four years (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), whom he has yet to propose to — though his parents imply that they are not holding their breath. His father (Richard Jenkins) is the type of man that flirts with young women, gets manicures and has a third wife (Amy Poehler) barely older than Carter himself. Poehler’s comedic talent is wasted on the role of Sondra; in fact, stripped of a funny script and sporting a perpetual grimace, she is barely recognizable. Comedic genius and Emmy-winner Lynch as Dr. Judith is another actress whose humor was largely untapped. When Carter comes knocking on her door, she, like a less cynical version of Glee’s (2009-present) Sue Sylvester, has her own interests in mind — she sees the adult Carter as the key to another bestseller.
The movie begins with a promising plot. Carter’s parents refuse to be in the same room together, to the extent that younger sibling Trey (Clark Duke) and his fiancé矡actually consider eloping. “I’ll elope with them,” their mom (Catherine O’Hara) suggests, in the hopes of excluding her ex from the momentous occasion. But when Carter walks in on his parents having sex on the kitchen counter, the movie lost all potential. The concept is “It’s Complicated” (2009) all over again — except here the problem lies not in complexity but in simplicity. The film stagnates at some point toward the middle, and Zicherman misses the “feel-good” factor that makes a movie like this worth watching. It stands in stark contrast with the surprisingly insightful and enjoyable Judd Apatow comedy, “This is 40” (2012).
For a film that tackles a serious topic — beginning with the unfortunate statistic that “one in two marriages end in divorce” — it is frustratingly shallow. Where it could have struck a chord with real-life children of divorce, it instead settles for cliches. Ultimately, “A.C.O.D” tries to do too many things at once and fails to arrive at any worthwhile conclusions. Carter is just like any other adult trying to escape his past; the only difference is — surprise, surprise — he does not have much faith in marriage.