So, this was not a movie that I had heard before watching but as I was scrolling through Netflix this jumped out. Sporting a cast with names such as Emma Roberts (We’re The Millers), Evan Peters (X-Men: Days of Future Past) and John Cusack (High Fidelity) with an intriguing synopsis, I decided to give this a go.
We follow Amy (Emma Roberts) as she graduates college after studying poetry and starts to send her work to publishers. As she get rejection letter after rejection letter her family, who have been supporting her, feel they can no longer offer the financial help they have been and Amy is forced to get a job. Not qualified for many of the positions she applies for, Amy takes a job in the local adult bookstore, Adult World. While working within the store and still focusing on her poetry writing, she attends a local book signing from her favourite poet Rat Billings (John Cusack) and forces herself into his life where he takes her on reluctantly as his protégé.
The story is fairly simple, as we tag along for the ride while Amy finds herself. While working at Adult World to pay her bills, Amy tries to gain the admiration of Rat Billings and starts to help around his house while he show very little interest in her writing. We see Amy making friends with Adult World employee Alex (Evan Peters) and regular customer Rubia (Armando Riesco), learning how to cope on her own as she leaves home for the first time and how who she thought was her idol may not be the person she thought he was or who she may want to be. This is not really a coming of age story but more a story about finding oneself.
The screenplay by Andy Cochran, is one of the strong points of the film with the all characters well rounded and adding distinctiveness to their roles and the way they share the screen. The first feature length script from Cochran, I found the writing to be assured and each interaction seemed genuine, and while Amy may seem over-the-top sometimes, I felt it worked to show how desperate she is to have her dream fall into place within her idealised world view. It manages to explore how trying to be an artist, whether with written word or the traditional painter, is exceptionally hard in modern America and that having the praise and acknowledgement of parents and teachers may not be enough when faced with lack of opportunities. The visual style of the film is also something I found to be different to what is usually seen in films of this type. The streets felt like they moved long after our characters had left them, the buildings were used and flawed, feeling authentic and lived-in and the refusal of those in charge of set-design to portray everything as clean, shiny and new where everything is easy and reachable is something I found refreshing. It fit in with the movie and its theme that our characters, especially Amy, was finding that growing up, and moving on after childhood, isn’t quite as easy as she may have originally thought, and that the ideal world that exists in her head isn’t the world that exists outside her door.
All three main actors are fantastic in their roles and all have great chemistry together. Emma Roberts is great in this and manages to show a full spectrum of emotions throughout, in her scenes with Alex she begins as naive and overwhelmed by the job and customers she if facing, and once she starts to pester Rat, she becomes obsessive, hyper-active and over-the-top as if the only thing the matters is the attention and recognition he can bestow upon her. Cusack is understated as Rat, the grown man who found success at a young age but has not done anything note-worthy for years, while dealing with the enthusiastic Amy. Evan Peters as Alex, is mellow and thoughtful and feels authentic in his performance, showing an image of a more grown-up and self-realised adult than of Amy. The supporting cast, especially Riesco’s Rubia, brings an extra element of friendship and honesty to Amy’s life, and adds plenty of humour and heart-felt scenes to the film that are important to the growth of the characters. Overall, the cast is well put-together and all have something individually to offer the story.
I enjoyed my time spent with these characters and liked watching them grow and change paths as they realise that what they wanted at the beginning may not be best for them in the end. It did not break any boundaries and some may find it similar to other films following young graduates as they try to make their mark on the world, but I thought it was a well-rounded story with likable characters and a quirky edge and I will look to watching this again in the future.