There’s a lot of juvenile shenanigans in “Adult World.”
Where to start? Well, there’s the wannabe poetess Amy (Emma Roberts), a recent college grad who, not long after entering the movie, frowns upon killing herself à la Sylvia Plath. Amy takes her head out of the oven and chides herself for “suicidal plagiarism.”
There’s also her belated entry into the workforce, which her parents fret over and which Amy remedies by taking a job in a pornographic video store. Oh, but not just any porn store. This one’s owned by a sweet elderly couple and staffed by the doe-eyed Alex (Evan Peters). Amy and Alex couple up, though not before an acquaintance of hers spots her in the smut shop.
Emma Roberts gets flirtatious in “Adult World.”
Then there’s Amy’s fixation on local poet Rat Billings (John Cusack), a shabby misanthrope fated to take Amy on as a protégée. He’ll tell Amy the cold, hard truth about her writing (which leads to that suicide scene).
Director Scott Coffey has a nice feel for embarrassing moments and kitchen-table confessions, but “Adult World” is stunted. Roberts (“American Horror Story”) is an actress seemingly freeze-dried into “almost starlet” status — and forever ID’d as Julia Roberts’ niece.
Here Roberts tries too hard for ditsy coquettishness, especially once Cusack slouches onscreen. The actor’s offhanded dismissiveness works for the purposes of Coffey’s film, but one must wonder how many off-putting Cusack performances (“The Frozen Ground,” “The Paperboy,” “The Raven”) we have to endure before he’s OK with his nice-guy film legacy.
There are even love scenes between real-life couple Roberts and Peters that feel like someone added them in recently, just to ratchet up the relevance. As an ode to anything important, “Adult World” is not a thing of beauty.