Carter’s life without his family seems to be running relatively smoothly. His parents divorced following his 9th birthday, but it even surprises him that he turned out so seemingly well-adjusted. In order to keep his life balanced, he keeps his parents at a safe distance. When his younger brother decides to get married, Carter feels forced to reconnect his parents to both be present for the wedding. The initial meetings with each parent turn out to be disastrous, so he takes a bold move and sets up a dinner for both of them to attend. Following this rough moment, he experiences only a short moment of peace, when suddenly the entire plan turns awry. His bitter, angry, divorced parents are caught having an affair, he begins to feel the pressure for the tempered relationship he has with his girlfriend, the book that chronicles his childhood struggles with divorce becomes a reality, and his restaurant is now in jeopardy due to his angry stepmother.
Starring: Adam Scott (Carter), Richard Jenkins (Hugh), Catherine O’Hara (Melissa), Amy Poehler (Sondra), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Lauren), Clark Duke (Trey), Ken Howard (Gary), Valerie Tian (Kieko), Sarah Burns (Margo), Jessica Alba (Michelle), Jane Lynch (Dr. Judith)
Adam Scott gives a mostly uptight, stiff performance, though it was meant to fit his character’s experience. While he was the central focus of the film, the relationship between Jenkins and O’Hara was more intriguing. They were both able to display the anger and resentment when their characters at the beginning and were even able to hold onto the sense of continued disagreement even after reconciliation. The rest of the cast seemed to fall into the background, particularly considering Lynch’s role similar to her character from a number of her other films.
Stu Zicherman’s film explores the current reality of the high number of divorces of today’s society and how it affects adults who experienced it as children. In the case of this film, it was a little less generalizable in the way that Carter’s parents ended up deciding to get back together and maintaining a rouse regarding their actual relationship intentions. A lot of the drama with his parents felt exaggerated and unrealistic, as the characters were more about maintaining tension versus simply afraid to reveal their true feelings. Highlighting the importance of communication, each of the characters have issues with either failing to reveal their issues, shielding others from serious problems, or lying to themselves to prevent pain.
The one-dimensional characters and simplified storyline take away from the actual potential conversation about the affects of divorce. Looking at Carter’s life, his childhood experience caused him to grow up quickly and avoid serious feelings to avoid the potential for getting hurt. As an adult, he was avoidant of the mess his parents were making, allowing himself to extend his relationship with Lauren beyond that of a dating couple, and dealing with the anger he felt about his childhood. While he took a leap of faith by proposing, there was never any resolution for the affair that he had or exploration over the fact that he was turning into his father. There was little actual exploration of the commonality and the way that he connected with Michelle. There was no exploration of how Trey actually came to believe the best of his parents and turned out differently than his brother, other than being shielded.
This is a film that had a lot of potential but did not deliver in the end. There are a few somewhat humorous moments, but they are more snickers compared to big laughs.
Dan’s Rating: 2.0/5