A.C.O.D. \ EH-see-OH-dee \ , noun;
1. Adult Children of Divorce.
It really wasn't all that long ago that divorce was the sort of shocking, scandalous thing that bored housewives would whisperwhisperwhisper about or gawk at in the tabloids. As
luck would have it, Carter (Adam Scott) grew up under the first generation to really embrace divorce. Maybe it scarred some kids, but Carter...? Look at him! He's a successful restauranteur. He's got the girl of basically anyone's dreams (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) hanging off his arm. ...and have you seen his hair? Heck, the guy's kind-hearted enough to let his innocent, hopelessly sheltered man-child of a kid brother (Clark Duke) set up shop in his garage. I guess he won't be there for too much longer, though. The good news? Trey's getting married! The bad news? He wants his folks (Catherine O'Hara and Richard Jenkins) there at the wedding, and he needs Carter to make it happen. Trey was too young to remember what his parents were like when they were together, but it was nothing but venom and screaming matches when they were still till-death-do-us-part, and things have somehow gotten even worse after they split.
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Carter was definitely the right guy to turn to for such a delicate task, but he does his job a little too well. He just wanted them to be able to tolerate each other's presence in the same room for one evening. Instead, he...errr...finds out just how much make-up sex Mom and Dad have to catch up on. The whole situation is more than Carter can handle, so he looks up his childhood therapist (Jane Lynch) for a little guidance. Turns out that in his younger days, Carter was one of the unwitting subjects of a book Dr. Judith penned about the effects of divorce on young children. That damaged, fucked-up kid she wrote about once again takes the reins. Bye bye, confident, well-to-do Carter! Hello, the needy, self-destructive, narcissistic whiner he devolves into! Carter stuffs his longterm relationship down in the garbage disposal. Everything he thought he knew -- everything he took any pride in -- is stripped away. Oh, and then things get really bad...
Part of my disappointment, I guess, is misplaced expectations. I hadn't heard much of anything about A.C.O.D. beforehand, and the cover art sure makes it look like some finger-wagglingly zany romp. It's kind of a comedy and kind of a drama, but no one on either side of the camera manages to stick the landing on any front. The majority of its characters are too broad and exaggerated to feel grounded in any sort of reality, and that stomps all over the drama. With a sprawling ensemble and a lean runtime, too much of the supporting cast winds up feeling underwritten, and that also gets in the way of some of the heavier moments. A.C.O.D. doesn't go for belly laughs, aiming more for smirks by shoving oddball characters into awkward, uncomfortable situations. I get it, but why draw these characters as basically cartoons if its sense of humor
is going to be this muted? What passes for humor are creaky gags like Carter's mom suggesting that they throw Trey a surprise wedding and his new stepmom showing up on his caller ID as the "Cuntessa". For crying out loud, A.C.O.D. even whips out that stale "Carter, I love you like a son." "I am your son!" routine. C'mon, cue up that record scratch! As restrained as the comedy is for so much of A.C.O.D.'s runtime, the whole thing builds to an over-the-top madcap comic finalé that feels like it was spliced in from a completely different movie. Equally laughless either way, tho'.
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This is somewhere in the neighborhood of a dream cast for me, and I have nothing but nice things to say about the performances, but A.C.O.D. doesn't really seem to know what to do with them. Most of 'em aren't really characters so much as reflections of Carter's damaged psyche. The focus is just way too scattershot. A.C.O.D. introduces a handful of the other case studies featured in Doc Judith's book, but most are barely glimpsed, and Jessica Alba's wiser-than-you'd-think carpe diem wildcard soundboard doesn't rank as too much more than a cameo. Mary Elizabeth Winstead pops in and out so frequently as Carter's longtime girlfriend that nothing about their relationship has a chance to resonate. Part of that's the point -- he takes Lauren for granted and keeps a certain distance, so you're not supposed to buy it as an epic, rainbows-and-pressed-flowers romance -- but the whole thing is uninvolving enough that I had no reason to care if she and Carter would patch things up before the end credits started rolling. It's one thing to have flawed but sympathetic characters, but A.C.O.D. is instead littered with generally unlikeable assholes. Even worse, they're bland, generally unlikeable assholes. Forget about Carter and Lauren's future as a couple; there's nothing and no one worth rooting for anywhere throughout the flick.
A.C.O.D. is just about a complete misfire. The movie stumbles in with a couple armfuls of different ideas, chucking them all at the screen without meaningfully developing more than a couple of 'em. The cast is teeming with a bunch of my favorite actors, and A.C.O.D. isn't really sure what to do with most of them. Even with a runtime that clocks in around 80 minutes minus credits, the pacing is painfully sluggish. As much as I'd normally fawn over a cast like this, A.C.O.D. can't be bothered to give me a reason to care about anything that happens to any of them. The direction by first-timer Stu Zicherman is uninspired, and the editing can get surprisingly clunky at times. For whatever reason, the sequences with Jane Lynch suffer the most in that respect, lingering too long at all the wrong moments. A.C.O.D. tries and fails to reach the same heights as Save the Date, a more skillfully crafted relationship drama infused with just the right amount of comedy. A.C.O.D. is a marginal rental if you're a card-carrying fan of anyone on the bill -- and you should be! -- but, geez, what a letdown. Rent It.
A.C.O.D. generally looks terrific in high-def. The digital photography is razor sharp and immaculately detailed, and it sure doesn't hurt that the contrast is so robust. As you'd probably expect for a movie fresh out of theaters, there's no filtering or excessive edge enhancement to get in the way, and the bitrate has more than enough headroom to stave off any hiccups in the AVC encode. Colors, meanwhile, occasionally make an impression but skew more towards the brown-ish/bronze-ish end of the spectrum than I would've guessed. The sight of such a drab palette does get stale after a while, but most everything else about this presentation leaves no room for complaint.
Technical stuff! Even though A.C.O.D. and all of its extras combined barely break the 90 minute mark, Paramount was generous enough to pony up for a dual-layer Blu-ray disc. Oh, and the mattes have been opened up a bit to reveal an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. I guess I could mention again that A.C.O.D. has been encoded with AVC. It bears repeating!
A.C.O.D. sports an uninspired, 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The sound design is really low-key, making this 5.1 mix come across more like straightahead stereo. Some music and light atmosphere -- chirping birds, applause at a book promotion -- creep into the surrounds, but the rear channels are dead silent the overwhelming majority of the time. There's not a whole lot going on in the lower frequencies either; a jazzy kick or nimble basswork in the score every once in a blue moon are about it. I'm not arguing that A.C.O.D. should lob out foundation-rattling waves of bass or
hyperaggressive split surrounds, but even for a movie like this, the 5.1 audio is reeeeeeally understated. The focal point of A.C.O.D. is its dialogue, obviously, and all of that's rendered cleanly and clearly without any concerns whatsoever. There sure isn't anything else in the mix competing for placement.
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Along for the ride are Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs (640kbps) in French and Spanish. Subtitles are served up in English (traditional and SDH), French, and Spanish.
Less than 15 minutes of stuff in all.
- Cast and Crew Discussions about A.C.O.D. (6 min.; HD): Instead of going through the usual talking head motions, A.C.O.D. strings together excerpts from a few post-screening Q&A sessions. Folks on both sides of the camera briefly chat about the concept of a divorce comedy, lining up the cast, the improvs that snuck into the final cut, and trying to upend some of the usual romantic comedy conventions.
- Public Service Announcements (6 min.; HD): Jane Lynch, Adam Scott, Clark Duke, and Catherine O'Hara educate viewers on the all-too real trials of being an adult child of divorce. You're not alone. I'd give you a hug right now if I weren't all the way over here. There are five of these in all, but the three with Duke and Scott are pretty much interchangeable.
- Outtakes (1 min.; HD): Two improv reels clock in around 40 seconds a pop. The first is from the making of Jane Lynch's PSA where she riffs about what A.C.O.D. stands for, exactly. The other has Amy Poehler sounding a whole lot like Leslie Knope as she clues in that the house is on fire.
The Final Word
This cast and this concept deserve better than A.C.O.D.'s head-on collision of laughless comedy and uninvolving family-slash-relationship drama. Rent It.
I Snapped Too Many Screencaps