"there is a subtlety to A.C.O.D as it sidesteps scenes that serve to give it a fresh feel"

In the quest for comedy, A.C.O.D, which stands for Adult Children of Divorce is the latest film to take a stroll in the mine field of marriage, commitment hang-ups, adultery and divorce. Whilst Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni were fond of exploring the implosion of human relationships, in A.C.O.D co-writer and director Stu Zicherman clears away the shrapnel to explore the emotional scars of the war wounded, the Adult Children of Divorce.

The selling point of A.C.O.D is the cast that Zicherman has assembled, amongst who are notable veteran actors Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara, alongside Adam Scott, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Amy Poehler, Clark Duke, Jane Lynch and Jessica Alba. But it is difficult not to sense a reliance on the cast to raise the material above its standing, and its concept of Adult Children of Divorce is such that it feels under explored, and by the end of the film it is just an empty term that has been flitted about. 

Of the cast Richard Jenkins shines, delivering a wonderful performance that sees him steal the film from Scott who is perched in the lead actor’s chair. Jenkins plays his part with a full blooded humour that only enhances the sneaky, conniving, dark glint in his eye, whilst Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Carter’s long-term girlfriend Lauren possesses a refreshing nonchalant air. 

The tone of the performances and the general disposition of A.C.O.D suggests that it was never intended to be a searing indictment on the state of monogamy in past and contemporary relationships, nor was it Zicherman’s intention to have it be a clinical dissection of Adult Children of Divorce. Instead, and to a point Zicherman successfully pulls off what is a light-hearted comedy that taps into these exhausted subjects. But with too few laughs and void of the sharp and insightful dialogue of a Woody Allen film, A.C.O.D struggles to reach the upper echelons that one senses it hoped to reach.

It is inevitable that we will align ourselves with Carter, who after all is the victim of his parent’s divorce and subsequent feud. His attempts to bring his warring ma and pa (O’Hara and Jenkins) together for his kid brothers impending nuptials are a convenient distraction for his unwillingness to commit to Lauren, who seems to accept the state of affairs. In all likelihood we are more concerned for his relationship than he is. But then our viewing experiences have given us reason to be concerned, while also given us the comfort that somehow, things will turn out okay in the end. But that is not before we find ourselves abandoning Carter as we align with Lauren and more surprisingly his parents who cast him in the light of the meddling and inexperienced critic. It is at this point we route for the hero of the tale to embrace a change in his worldview and claim the beautiful Lauren as his bride. It is an effective little moment in which we are compelled to jump ship and the film adjusts its perspective to a more objective viewpoint. Perhaps like in life we shouldn’t take sides in the movies. Instead we should leave it to the characters to sort out and just kick back and enjoy the show.

A.C.O.D possesses a certain subtlety, sidestepping scenes that serve to give it a fresh feel. Confessions of betrayal and the heavy handed righting of one’s life are handled with a lighter touch, omitting those scenes that would have left it feeling derivative and worn. A.C.O.D still hits the beats one would expect, and Carter’s journey feels uninspired, the strongest moments of the film those that incorporate the cast of characters.

Making full use of the credit sequence A.C.O.D  brings the film back to reality by looking at the similarities of the events in the film to the real life experiences of everyday people. Through a simple and light touch rather than a searing indictment there is truth to be found in A.C.O.D. The closing comments contextualise marriage as both something sacred and something to be avoided. Amidst this multitude of perspectives offered are opinions that are distinct and similar, but perhaps the simplicity of A.C.O.D’s message is that marriage is not so much a failed experiment, but an uncertain experiment. The two lead characters of Carter who is a Adult Child of Divorce and Lauren - a product of a long and healthy marriage delivers the films simple message that life is an uncertain, complicated and imperfect experiment with no pre-determined outcome.

Recommended reading: “How to Survive Divorce, Marriage and British Villains” by John McClane.