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A.C.O.D. (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

A.C.O.D. (Adult Children of Divorce)


Starring Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clark Duke, Amy Poehler, Ken Howard, Jane Lynch, Jessica Alba, Valerie Tian, Sarah Burns, Kacie Jo Marta Nickles and Adam Pally.

Screenplay by Ben Karlin & Stuart Zicherman.

Directed by Stuart Zicherman.

Distributed by The Film Arcade. 87 minutes. Rated R.

I'm not going to lie; I didn't have high hopes when I first received the Blu-ray release of A.C.O.D. First of all, there was the title. It's like what is that supposed to mean? If you don't notice the small-printed explanation "Adult Children of Divorce," the A.C.O.D. could be about absolutely anything.

Then there was the fact that the movie had completely flown under the radar. I'd literally never heard of it when the press release was sent, though upon checking back it seems it had a cursory theatrical release back in October, even playing in my town. However, there were no ads, no buzz, nothing.

On the plus side, though, it did have quite a fine cast for an essentially straight to video release – including Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clark Duke, Amy Poehler, Ken Howard, Jane Lynch and Jessica Alba – so perhaps it would be worth the time.

Turns out that it was much better than I'd ever imagined. In fact, it's a damned good and surprisingly unpredictable comedy which deserved much wider notice. So much for first impressions.

In fact, the movie is all about confounding first impressions. Take the lead character (please!) Adam Scott of Parks and Recreation plays Carter. When we first meet him, Carter is a smart, handsome successful restaurateur with a quirky house, a gorgeous (and understanding) girlfriend (Winstead) and a younger brother (Dukes) who idolizes him.

However, we do know through a flashback at the beginning that his parents had an extremely contentious divorce, breaking up in spectacularly nasty fashion at his ninth birthday party.

Since that flare-up, Carter had to grow up fast. He long ago figured out that he had to compartmentalize his life – his parents absolutely despised each other, so he had to keep his life with his mother and father separate, and the older he got, the more he kept them at arm's length.

Carter's carefully constructed world starts to fall apart when his little brother – who was too young when their parents broke up to really remember what they were like together – announces that he is getting married. He asks Carter for a huge favor, to get both parents to come to the wedding and at the same time not kill each other or ruin the day.

Carter tries his best to get the parents to cooperate, but they are obviously pulling him in different directions. He feels his life starting to swerve out of control, so he decides to look up a therapist (Lynch) he used to see as a child when he was getting through the problems of coping with his parents vitriol.

It is only then that he finds out that she wrote a best-selling self-help book called Children of Divorce, in which his childhood was dissected for mass consumption. In the book, he looks needy, sad and pathetic. The more he tries to broker peace between his parents, the deeper and deeper he falls into his old compulsions and neuroses. And the more he sees traits in his life that stem from his parents.

A.C.O.D. has an interesting structure for a film comedy, because normally movies tend to show a person who is kind of a mess getting better, while this movie takes the exact opposite tack. Carter is just trying to cope as his life spins further and further from his control.

Scott has perfected his slow-burn in Parks and Recreation and he makes a terrific straight man. However, most of the really big laughs in A.C.O.D. come from those wily vets Catherine O'Hara and Richard Jenkins as the parents. They are allowed to go hog wild in the obnoxiousness sweepstakes and in doing so, create two of the more memorable characters in recent comedy.

A.C.O.D. still needs a much better title, but other than that the movie is a very pleasant surprise.

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2014 All rights reserved. Posted: January 14, 2014.

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