There’s a proud tradition in movies – particularly romantic comedies – of the slow revelation that it’s not the world that’s crazy and needs help, it’s you. The film subverts our expectations by having us identify with the seemingly normal protagonist and all the familial, career or relationship drama they have to deal with, before the layers are peeled back to show he/she’s actually the one in desperate need of change.
The granddaddy of them was the Adam Sandler/Jack Nicholson comedy Anger Management, and ACOD (Adult Children of Divorce) picks up the mantle. Carter (Adam Scott) is a modern thirty something who loves his sweet girlfriend Lauren (May Elizabeth Winstead) but hesitates to pop the question because of the mess he saw his parents Hugh (Richard Jenkins) and Melissa (Catherine O’Hara) make of their marriage – the pre-credits video sequence of their blistering fight at his Carter’s ninth birthday is a stand-out.
He was also unknowingly the subject of a best-selling book by unorthodox therapist Judith (Jane Lynch, obviously not worried about typecasting after playing this role several times over the last few months), which explains what a screw-up children of divorce can become and which Carter discovers to his horror he’s one of the subjects of.
When his impulsive little brother (Clark Duke) announces he’s marrying his flighty Japanese American girlfriend, Carter fears the worst at the prospect of his parents being in the same room for the wedding and embarks a campaign to get them together and make them promise to behave, his efforts backfiring spectacularly when they rekindle a romance (even though both have remarried).
When the proverbial hits the fan, it’s when the rails start to come off Carter’s carefully managed sense of equilibrium, and as Judith tells him she wants to work on a follow-up book (because he’s now imploding so destructively), both Carter and the audience realise just how emotionally crippled he is.
It could have been like a hundred other asinine divorce/marriage/intergenerational comedies, but there’s a great cast and some genuinely funny gags with an adult outlook, all of which elevate it enough to enjoy.