Venturing out into emotionally unfamiliar territory can be a frightening and nerve-racking experience for many people. First-time feature film director Stu Zicherman, who’s known for writing the action crime fantasy film, ‘Elecktra,’ and such drama shows as ‘Six Degrees’ and ‘What About Brian?,’ courageously tried relaying humor about the disfunctionality of families in his new comedy, ‘A.C.O.D.’ The movie not only chronicles how an adult, who has been contending with his parents’ divorce for the past 30 years, finally realizes that his life isn’t as put together as it appears, but also shows how the filmmaker explored telling a relatable, witty story about family life.
‘A.C.O.D.’ follows Carter (Adam Scott), a seemingly well-adjusted Adult Child of Divorce, who has survived the zaniness of his parents’ divorce as a child. Striving to prove that he’s nothing like his parents, Carter now has a successful career as a restaurant owner and a supportive girlfriend, Lauren (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who feels no need to rush into marriage, even after four years of dating. But when his younger brother, Trey (Clark Duke), gets engaged, it’s up to Carter to reunite his bitterly divorced parents, Hugh and Melissa (Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara), for the wedding. The two haven’t spoken to each other in years, as they’re both married to other people-Sondra (Amy Poehler) and Gary (Ken Howard). When Carter seeks counsel from his childhood shrink, Dr. Judith ( Jane Lynch ), he discovers that his adolescent therapy was part of a divorce study for her best-selling book, and the chaos of his childhood returns.
Zicherman, who also co-wrote ‘A.C.O.D.’ with Ben Karlin, cleverly developed a humorous, relatable and daring comedy about the struggles families, particularly children, experience when they’re contending with the heartbreaking strain of a chaotic, confusing divorce. The scribe-director established an emotionally naïve grown man in Carter, who’s using the security of his growing business and the unquestioning of the stability of his relationship with Lauren, to represent the façade of strength and stability adults often claim to have in their lives. While hesitantly contending with the strenuous emotional instability Hugh and Melissa inadvertently bring into Carter’s life while he’s helping to plan his younger brother’s wedding, he quickly and satisfactorily learns that he can’t push aside all of the conflict in his life.
Scott was perfectly cast as the title character, as he comically fed into many adults’ insistence that their parents’ actions and decisions don’t rule, and dictate their outlook on, their lives. The actor portrays Carter as honestly believing he’s making the right decisions in running his restaurant, not fully committing to Lauren and most importantly, lying to his parents to maintain their distance from, and superficial peace with, each other. It isn’t until Carter fully explores and discusses his feelings with Dr. Judith, who’s doing research for her follow-up book on adult children of divorce, that that the actor truly embodies the long-suffering pain and resentment that kids often feel towards their parents.
The supporting cast of ‘A.C.O.D.’ offered entertaining comic relief through the film’s sometimes thinly stretched plotline. While the film’s premise of soothing over the strained relationship between divorced parents can easily and satisfactorily please viewers during one of the actors’ sitcoms, such as Poehler’s ‘Parks and Recreation,’ the amusing and captivating fun between the stars more than makes up for Zicherman’s at-times under-developed story.
Lynch, for example, memorably plays Dr. Judith as enthrallingly offering no apologies or regrets for using Carter’s life story in her book. She instead blatantly wants to push him out of his comfort zone in order to uncover his real feelings about his parents’ relationship, and show that he never truly overcame their divorce, to add intrigue to her new project. Her deliberate attempts to once again raise his insecurities about his relationships should be disconcerting, but instead actually diffuses tension in his interactions with his family.
Zicherman effortlessly made an entertaining, amusing and relatable comedy that humorously explores the continued emotional strain of parents’ relationship mistakes on their children. The perfectly-cast Scott easily connected with the seemingly well-adjusted Carter, who in essence was hiding behind his moderately successful restaurant and romantic relationship with Lauren to try to reinforce the idea that he truly was happy to everyone, including himself. While the filmmaker could have developed a more in-depth exploration into the past transgressions of the main characters, particularly Hugh and Melissa, to give a more satisfactory clarification of why the family has grown so distant, the supporting cast of ‘A.C.O.D.’ offered enjoyable comic relief that daringly and unforgivingly tackled the usually sensitive nature of emotionally neglected children.