A.C.O.D. — which stands for Adult Children Of Divorce — has plenty of talent both in front of and behind the camera, yet it still struggles with originality. Perhaps it’s the clichéd indie rock soundtrack that subtly adds a blandness to the entire film, or the completely superfluous part of Jessica Alba as a bad girl who’s only in two scenes (if an unknown was cast in the part, it surely would have been cut entirely), but it’s really a number of small issues like these that add up to make it another in a long line of not-quite-great indie films of the past few years.
Still, it has its moments and that’s mostly due to a uniformly great cast. Adam Scott (Parks & Recreation) is Carter, the eldest son of divorced parents Hugh (Richard Jenkins) and Melissa (Catherine O’Hara) who just can’t stand each other. After years of playing mediator between his folks and figuring out a system of keeping both at arm’s length, his younger brother Trey (Clark Duke) requests that he find a way to have them both attend his wedding. Unfortunately, it begins taking a larger toll on Carter himself than his parents.
He enlists Dr. Judith (Jane Lynch), a therapist from his childhood, to help him deal with the reemergence of issues he thought were long put to rest, only to discover she isn’t a real therapist but a researcher who used him and other children — namely Jessica Alba who is supposed to become some sort of distraction from his girlfriend in just two scenes — as subjects for a book. Upon reading the book, he realizes that he may not be as well adjusted as he thought and has just been burying his issues within himself.
It’s not a bad premise and Scott plays the slowly unhinged Carter well. As the owner of a restaurant with a great girlfriend Lauren (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Carter seems like a pretty normal guy. But his immediate aversion to marriage — both to the sudden announcement from Trey, after only four months of dating, and with no plans on marrying Lauren after 4 years — is the first sign that he may be harboring some deeper issues from his traumatic childhood. The oft repeated story from the book is how cops showed up at his ninth birthday to break up a fight between his parents, but he continually insists it wasn’t a big deal.
While Scott has the burden of carrying to film’s plot on his shoulders, it’s Jenkins and O’Hara who get to have all the fun. Over the years of acting as the go-between, Carter has assumed the role of a parent while Hugh and Melissa act like children unable to hold back their vitriol when the other is merely mentioned. Hugh is financially successful but is now on to wife three, the much younger and materially obsessed Sondra (Amy Poehler). Melissa has married the more stable Gary (Ken Howard) but is subject to bouts of lunacy. Yet, as Carter continuously attempts to reign in his folks and prove that they’re the crazy ones — as they very well seem — it slowly becomes obvious that it’s Carter who must deal with his issues as he’ll never be able to change those around him, especially his parents.
The film, written and directed by Stu Zicherman, seeks to uncover some bold truths about growing up in a non-nuclear, sometimes hostile, environment. Unfortunately, it never really does. Carter comes to some sort of conclusion about embracing who his parents are but it never feels earned for the mere fact that his parents do seem completely crazy. It’s an enjoyable film full of great talent but one that never quite satisfies.
Rating: 3 out of 5.