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Film Review: 'A.C.O.D.'

Michael Huard |
October 5, 2013 | 10:22 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Amy Poehler in "A.C.O.D." (Paramount).
Amy Poehler in "A.C.O.D." (Paramount).

Adam Scott’s new film “A.C.O.D.” consistently reminds the viewer that “adult children of divorce” is a generational phenomenon specific to the current throng of adults reaching—or already in—their thirties. Opening title cards state that one of every two marriages end in divorce and this film focuses on a particularly nasty one. Director/writer Stu Zicherman, making his directorial debut, sadly provides little beyond that.

Carter’s (Scott) parents, played by Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara, put him through a brutal split when he was only nine years old that turned into a ceaseless string of insults and fights. Now a successful restaurateur with a nice home and beautiful, stable girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Carter learns that his brother, Trey (Clark Duke), is getting married after only four months of dating his Japanese girlfriend. 

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As the middleman between the feuding parents, Carter must find a way to have them amicably sit in the same room for the first time in 20 years. This endeavor reveals a piece of Carter’s youth that he misunderstood. Years with Dr. Judith (Jane Lynch) were treated like therapy sessions, but in fact Carter was participating in a study about children of divorce. When he reaches out to Judith again, she decides to start the follow up book, coining the phrase “Adult Children Of Divorce.” 

Scott displays the typical derisive sarcasm that has become his staple within the industry, except with an extra dose of victimization absent from his turns in “Step Brothers,” “Bachelorette,” or “The Viscous Kind.” The supporting cast of “A.C.O.D.” is strong enough to help anyone carry a film, but Scott proves adept at keeping the film interesting with his “who me?” shrugs and skeptical glances. 

The problems with “A.C.O.D.” stem from a script with dull writing that causes listless characters and a stagnant storyline. In particular, Winstead is not given a character worth building. Lauren does not progress or regress throughout the entire film and simply acts as a mirror for Carter to see his flaws. The remaining actors took their roles and decided to use their own talents to garner interest, including Lynch’s kooky style. 

Additional characters are introduced to the story without much purpose apart from filling gaps in the story, such as Sondra (Amy Poehler) and Gary (Ken Howard) as the stepparents. Some characters create even larger gaps. The most egregious example of this comes from Jessica Alba’s Michelle, a fellow child of divorce for Dr. Judith’s books. Zicherman inserts Michelle into the story to show that dysfunction attracts dysfunction, but apart from the two encounters between Carter and Michelle, she is absent from the story and completely lacks any sort of resolution. 

As a result, Zicherman creates an enticing film for an hour before running out of ideas. Characters either drop off or return without much reason. He includes scenes that do not progress the story and fail to conjure laughter. Most unforgivable of all, however, is the lack of conclusion to the story. 

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The film follows a well-traveled path towards a logical ending that keeps the story neat, clean and undeniably Hollywood in nature. Zicherman makes a valiant attempt to avoid settling for the expected, but in the process sacrifices any continuity. The final sequence consists of an inane story from Richard Jenkins followed by an ambiguous finale that has four possible conclusions. Two of the options make perfect sense, while the other two would have required a little more explanation beforehand. Regardless, Zicherman refuses to choose and leaves the resolution too open-ended. 

“A.C.O.D.” takes a novel, contemporary concept, moves nowhere and answers little except the question regarding Adam Scott’s candidacy to be a leading man for comedies in the future. Despite a charming opening and a stellar cast, the film leaves a lot to be desired.

Watch the trailer for the film below.


Reach Staff Reporter Michael Huard here.



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