By Josh Reilly B. & George Bate
At first glance, Michael Cera’s new film The Adults might appear strange to say the least. Characters are often breaking into impressions of famous fictional figures (such as Marge Simpson from The Simpsons), and the dynamic between the three siblings at the center of this story is, at times, awkward and unique (to put it mildly). But anyone who has a sibling will recognize the singular awkwardness and uniqueness that comes with the kind of inside-jokes between siblings on display in The Adults, making it an unusual yet resonant experience.
Premiering at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, The Adults follows Eric (Michael Cera), a man who returns to his childhood home to spend some time with his two sisters, but stays longer than expected because of a gambling addiction that appears to be spiraling out of control. Eric’s relationship with his sisters Rachel and Maggie is strained to say the least, and he often feels like an awkward stranger with them. The Adults is essentially a “day in the life” sort of film; one that isn’t too eventful but serves as an intimate study of adult siblings, whose resentment for one another is coupled by a sort of unique love for one another only siblings can have.
Michael Cera brings his traditional sincerity once again here, playing a relatable and engaging character who is sympathetic but still clearly flawed. Cera often plays these bizarre, strange characters (his small part in Twin Peaks: The Return serving as the peak of that), and Eric once again fits the bill here in The Adults. His interactions with others, particularly those who aren’t his family, is usually cringeworthy and odd to say the least, but in a way that feels completely normal. The Adults appears to be aiming for a very real depiction of modern America and its people, insofar as these characters are flawed, they behave in a “behind closed doors” manner that is often overlooked in film and television, and yet their lives and their relationships feel genuine and authentic. Cera’s performance is a major part of why this movie works, broadly speaking.
The Adults certainly won’t be for everyone, however. The humor feels niche, for better and worse, which makes it memorable but also hit or miss depending on the preference of the individual viewer. As well as that, this is far from the most eventful movie going experience, which might be exactly what one is looking for, but that there aren’t exactly any Earth shattering events makes this feel like a refreshingly low key story about three siblings. These characters grow as the film goes on, but their arcs aren’t necessarily complete by the time that the credits roll, adding to the feeling that this is more of a peak into the lives of these characters rather than a full tale. Again, some might like that while others will certainly not, but it’s safe to say that this is exactly what writer/director Dustin Guy Defa is going for throughout.
As that low level, quiet character piece is the goal for Defa and co., it’s safe to say that this is executed well throughout. This style might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s hard to argue against the way in which the filmmaker went about crafting such a story. Beyond that, as the film goes on, it becomes more and more emotionally resonant, a refreshing feeling that helps bring the audience closer to these characters. So much of this movie feels real, raw, and relatable, which again is a credit to the positive execution throughout.
Despite that, The Adults is still not the most entertaining of films. The low level nature of the story is one thing, but the way in which Defa tells these events is in such a way that it feels like a fly on the wall sort of movie. Real life isn’t always as engaging or entertaining as the modern day blockbuster franchise, for example, which appears to be the point that is being made in this film, which isn’t necessarily the most gripping or interesting. Although it does get more engaging as it goes on, The Adults might not be as fast paced, memorable, or entertaining enough to stick through for some viewers.
The Adults is a subdued and understated film premiering at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, starring Michael Cera in a characteristically awkward yet somehow endearing performance. For better or worse, this film can arguably serve as successful counter-programing to the many huge franchise movies that are coming out thick and fast in modern day Hollywood. Despite not being the most entertaining of stories, it feels personal and real in a refreshing way and will resonate, to some degree, with anyone who has siblings.