By Alonso Melgar
CALGARY — Adult Beginners is a film all about sentiment and the past. Through the eyes of a trio of painfully human and flawed characters, the film paints a convincing portrait of adults fearful of moving backwards in life, and regretting ever moving forward.
Snobbish New York City entrepreneur Jake (Nick Kroll) loses millions of investor money, as well as his own, and retreats from the backlash into the suburbs to live with his sister Justine (played superbly by Rose Byrne) her husband (Bobby Cannavale) and their infant child. The couple hire Jake as a nanny to look over their son, and he’s forced to look at life in an entirely foreign way.
Kroll shines through at moments but for the most part his performance is very subdued, allowing the dialogue and interactions with the rest of the cast to develop his character. In particular, his relationship with his sister explores the dichotomy between someone who has largely escaped the confines of an adult life, and one who has become completely engulfed by life and now yearns for an alternative. The bonding element between them is the same fear of being trapped in whatever existence they carve out for themselves.
On the surface Adult Beginners offers little new to the “fish out of water” or “travelling back home to find yourself” movie template, but the cast and script are charming enough to leave you invested and satisfied. I’ll leave you with this bit of advice Kroll offers to his young nephew in the film, which hopefully speaks to anyone clutching to the past while hoping for a better future: “Don’t ride backwards on a train. It’ll make you sick.”AB, Adult Beginners, Alberta, Calgary Underground Film Festival, CUFF, CUFF 2015