‘A.C.O.D.’ Review: Family Feud, Subdued

The new indie comedy A.C.O.D. (which stands for Adult Children of Divorce), starts off like most marriages. First there’s the romance period where the awkward charm of the movie pulls you in and you’re having a good time. At the film opens, we’re shown a clip from an old home movie of Carter (Adam Scott) during his ninth birthday celebration. As the countdown to blow out the candles begins, his parents have a blowout of their own and begin bickering in the yard, slowly upstaging their son’s celebration.

Cut to the present day, and a surprisingly well-adjusted Carter owns a restaurant, plays peace maker between his now-divorced parents (Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara), and has a pretty good relationship with girlfriend Lauren (the criminally under-used Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Carter’s brother Trey (Clarke Duke) is getting married to his own girlfriend, and so the whole family has come to town in preparation. Bitchiness and dry comedy ensue—so far, so good.

But soon the the movie starts to drag on and the marriage between viewer and film falls into boredom with the other person. As the family drama ramps up, Carter tries to find solace in an old therapist (Jane Lynch), only to find out their sessions when he was a kid were just research for a book. Sensing potential for a re-examination, she pitches a follow-up book upon which the film gets its name. Adam Pally and Jessica Alba are thrown in as fellow patients, but don’t really add up to much here. Also wasting time is the too-easy “separated parents end up together again” move, an unintentional consequence of Carter’s attempts at diffusing the tension. And, because that isn’t enough, Carter’s restaurant is owned by his father’s bitchy new wife (Amy Poehler, relishing being the bad guy for once), which means that somewhere along the line she’ll take it away. There’s a lot of things going on here, and being entertained takes a back seat like a forgotten middle child to the psychos and psychodrama.

The movie is full of talented actors, but doesn’t do a lot with them. Even Scott’s Friends With Kids took a thematically-similar “dry, humorous family issues” concept and ran with it far further by making it emotional and, well, funny. I had more fun spotting local venues—ACOD is filmed in Atlanta—than I did being invested in the plot. The movie may have a message, but if it’s anything beyond “life is messy”, it’s not apparent.

By the time all is said and done and someone’s about to get hitched (Is it the brother or the parents themselves?) you’re ready to file for divorce with this film. Which is sad, because the fact that actors this good can only elicit a couple chuckles over 90 minutes should have tipped me off never to trust love at first viewing.

Review by Mark Ziemer


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