Fact: one in two marriages will end in divorce. Children of divorce often grow up torn between two homes, forced to grow up far more quickly than should ever be expected. Sometimes, these children feel as though something is missing, as though the sum of all of their parts do not equal a satisfying whole. Unfortunately, this same criticism could be leveled against ‘A.C.O.D,’ the 2013 comedy about the adult children of divorce directed by rookie director Stu Zicherman.
In ‘A.C.O.D.,’ Adam Scott is a seemingly well-adjusted man with a stable relationship and a steady career, despite the emotional baggage that he carries from his parents’ explosive divorce when he was nine years old. At first, Adam plays the role of uniter as he tries to bring his family together for his younger brother’s upcoming wedding. As the relationships between his family change, though, Adam discovers just how maladjusted he truly is.
The problem with ‘A.C.O.D.’ is in its execution. The premise is sound; the effects of divorce on adults should allow for a lot of engaging exploration or comedic twists, depending on how much gravitas the film wants to impart. Played for impact, this film could have made stronger use of its emotional scenes, and could have tried to instill a more profound message. Conversely, this film could have played its themes for heavy laughs, utilizing its talented cast to explore the absurd ways that people with troubled childhoods often turn out. ‘A.C.O.D.’ never travels down either path, and instead meanders from start to unsatisfying finish.
This is particularly surprising due to the overall quality of the cast. Adam Scott, for one, is superb in this type of role. When looking for a comedic actor to play a tightly wound straight man who slowly unravels as his world caves in on him, Adam Scott is one of the best in the business. Unfortunately, this script just doesn’t allow him to go anywhere interesting, and wastes his natural talents. The supporting cast is, by-and-large, top-notch. Standouts among the cast include Jane Lynch, who reigns in her usual ball-busting demeanor a bit as a psychological researcher writing a book about the Adult Children of Divorce, and Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara, Adam Scott’s parents who steal every scene they are in due to their superb comedic chops.
That said, there was one noticeable misfire with the casting. Amy Poehler has long been one of my favorite comediennes, and her appearance in this film had my expectations high. Sadly, she is sorely underutilized in her role as Scott’s rigid step-mother. It felt as though all of the charm and energy that Poehler brings to the screen was snuffed out, instead replaced by a stiffness that did not serve the character or the story. There was a glimmer of the same chemistry that Scott and Poehler share as the leads of NBC’s ‘Parks and Recreation,’ but this chemistry did not suit the characters, and seemed more like an unintentional side-effect than anything else.
Quibbles about the cast and how the were under-utilized aside, the biggest problem with ‘A.C.O.D.’ is in the strength of its narrative and in its editing. To its credit, the film puts together several very strong, engaging scenes, but never really ties those scenes together properly to reach either a dramatic or a comedic crescendo. Some of the scenes flirt with dramatic tension, others are almost hilarious, but the film never really picks a style and runs with it. With stronger direction, this film could have had a voice. Instead, it ended up falling flat for me.
‘A.C.O.D.’ is not a bad movie; there is promise in this film, and with this being director Stu Zicherman’s first feature film, many of the flaws are understandable. More than anything, this film feels frustrating because the premise and the actors are squandered. I hope that on future outings, Stu Zicherman trusts his instincts and works on developing his own voice as a filmmaker. If you are a fan of any of the actors I’ve mentioned in this review, this might be a good film to rent on a lazy afternoon. Otherwise, I would say to skip ‘A.C.O.D.’