Movies

Film Journal: Adult World

Every once in a while a movie comes on that mocks my generation perfectly.   Adult World is one of those movies.

Adult World stars Emma Roberts, Evan Peters and John Cusack.  Fun fact:  Roberts and Peters met on the set of this movie and dated for 7 years.  The story follows Amy (Emma Roberts), a millennial poet frustrated with postgraduate life.  John Cusack plays Rat Billings, a self- loathing, washed- up author in the vein of JD Salinger.

Can we just pause to appreciate the name?

Rat Billings. 

He’s supposed to have written a book called “The Squalor of Splendor”.

Adult World perfectly mocks the melodrama of a privileged artist coming of age.  In the movie’s first scene, the poet laureate of Syracuse University tries taping Amy while they have sex, but she busts his rouse and gets her and her bralette out of there.  She has serious scruples about working at Adult World, a sex shop, and she later (unsuccessfully) seduces a much older man.  Does one have to sacrifice dignity for life experience?

The answer is no.  But an open mind doesn’t hurt.

Amy’s mind is opened by Stan and Mary Anne, the elderly owners of Adult World;  Alex, their affable and unpretentious employee who makes art just for himself; Rat, who has all the notoriety Amy craves and still lives in her same cold- ass town; and Rubia, a poor but sexy drag queen who says my favorite line:

“‘ Writing shit

About new snow for the rich

Is not art.’  That’s like, my favorite haiku.”

If you read that and you’re thinking, “that’s not a haiku!! It doesn’t follow the 5-7-5 syllable structure!”  Relax.  It does in Japanese*.

In the end, Amy does get published in The New Yorker.  But she does get published in an erotica magazine.

I love everything about this movie.  I love how frigid and awful Syracuse, New York looks in the winter.  I love how her stupid best friend tries to pass her boyfriend off as a South American revolutionary and he’s like, “Yo, we met at Whole Foods”.  Each character feels fully themselves, right down to their bad outfits.  Ironically, I feel most adult critics didn’t get Adult World.  It’s a millennial movie for sure.  We are ridiculous and sad, but we’ll figure it out.  Watch Adult World when you want to feel a little bit better about your life.

*”Writing shit about new snow for the rich is not art” was written Kobayashi Issa in the 1700s.   

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