I wasn’t sure what I was expecting with Director Ross Katz’ Adult Beginners. I knew it had comedic actor Nick Kroll and current comedy darling Rose Byrne in it, so I guess I was expecting a raunchy, bawdy comedy. What I ended up with was not that at all.
The story follows Jake (Kroll), a self-centered entrepreneur who loses all his money when his new venture tanks. With nowhere else to go, he drops in on his sister, Justine (Byrne), and her family. Jake expects to be taken in without question, but Justine is dealing with a lot. She’s a high school guidance counselor juggling an out of touch principal, stressed out students, her young son Teddy (Caleb and Matthew Paddock), and an impending pregnancy. Her husband, Danny (Bobby Cannavale), is a general contractor working on Jake and Justine’s family home as they prepare to sell it. Danny and Justine take Jake in as long as he promises to be their “manny” for Teddy. During his stay with the family, Jake grows and matures and gets to know his sister better than he has since they were kids. As he tries to get his life back together, he also learns some things that could tear Justine’s family apart.
The film is very funny, but I was surprised at the amount of drama that found its way into the story. It turned out to be a very sweet film in the end. Yes, it was a little predictable here and there with a couple of cliché characters, but I laughed throughout. Central to the title and the trailer for the film is a swimming class for Teddy in which it is discovered that Justine and Jake never learned to swim, hence the title, Adult Beginners. Of course, the title also refers to Justine and Jake navigating the road to adulthood, but I thought the swimming class would have been a bit more central to the plot, especially with Jane Krakowski playing the swimming instructor. They could have had a lot of fun with that, but instead we get more of a dramedy with some really funny bits. Not a bad thing, just not something I expected from a film with Nick Kroll and Rose Byrne. I was reminded a bit of last year’s The Skeleton Twins, but Adult Beginners is nowhere near as dark and serious as that film gets at points.
The cast is absolutely delightful. I knew that Kroll was a talented comedian, but he does a really fine job here with both the comedy and the drama. Byrne continues the career reinvention she began with Bridesmaids and does a fine job here. She has become quite the comedic actress in the last few years and has really found her groove. Cannavale is very good here as Jake’s brother in law, while Joel McHale puts in a funny appearance as Jake’s best friend, Hudson. I also enjoyed Paula Garcés’ performance as Blanca, another nanny that Jake meets while taking Teddy to the park.
Overall, Adult Beginners is a fun movie that doesn’t break the mold, but I found it to be really enjoyable. You may be surprised at the amount of family drama throughout, but it never dulls the comedic bits. It’s definitely worth a look if you’ve got an afternoon to kill.