Writer Andy Cochran shows off a truly authentic voice in his delightfully off-kilter script for "Adult World," a smart, incisive comedy about a recent college grad's booby-trapped immersion into real life.
Directed by actor-filmmaker Scott Coffey ("Ellie Parker"), this darkly funny film involves 22-year-old Amy (a game Emma Roberts), an intellectually entitled, rather clueless poet hellbent on literary stardom. But when Amy's strapped parents (Catherine Lloyd Burns, Reed Birney) announce they can no longer finance her dream, she's forced to take a job clerking at Adult World, a faded porn shop owned by a pair of frisky seniors (Cloris Leachman, John Cullum).
The irony of the virginal Amy selling sex toys and such is not lost on the character or those around her, including engaging store manager Alex (Evan Peters) and Rubia (Armando Riesco, terrific), a wise transgender diva who temporarily houses Amy.
Meanwhile, Amy develops an artistic crush on Rat Billings (a hilariously droll John Cusack), a cranky, onetime poetry icon who perhaps too conveniently lives near Amy right there in Syracuse, N.Y. Desperate for a mentor, Amy essentially stalks the elusive Billings, wearing him down until he cracks open his life to her. Suffice to say, the tenacious Amy may not learn quite what she wants from her often cruel idol, but she'll eventually learn what she needs.
Brimming with sharp asides and clever throwaways (Billings' passing parsing of nom de plume and nom de guerre, for one), plus astute observations on literary pretension and misguided youth, "Adult World" is a winner.
"Adult World." MPAA rating: R for sexual content and drug use. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. At the Arena Cinema, Hollywood. Also on VOD.