With three days remaining, A.C.O.D. is my favorite film of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Directed by first-timer Stuart Zicherman, it’s about “Adult Children of Divorce” and stars Adam Scott as Carter, a man whose parents (Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara) had a brutal breakup on his 9th birthday. Decades later his brother (Clark Duke) decides to take the plunge into matrimony and it brings up some major issues caused by the traumatic breakup. Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jessica Alba andJane Lynch are also along for the ride.
Co-written by Zicherman and Ben Karlin, the script for A.C.O.D. is a Swiss watch. Everything is economical, hilarious, perfectly-paced and never in-your-face obvious. There are loads of big laughs wrapped around unexpected plot points, resonant emotion and great character development. The cast all bring such vigorous life to the film that it almost makes a sad and touchy subject, divorce, into something to be envious of.
A.C.O.D. is a special, miraculous film and the exact reason why you come to the Sundance Film Festival. It’ll leave you happy and high on the power of comedic cinema.
As the star of A.C.O.D, Adam Scott proves once again he’s leading man material. This isn’t just a rehash of Party Down or Parks and Recreation. Carter is confident yet vulnerable. Having your parents separate in such a traumatic way – at your ninth birthday party – changed him forever and while he seems to be put together on the surface, he’s broken underneath. That pain is on his face in every scene. Which is why when his brother Trey (Duke) decides to get married, things begin to bubble up that Carter can’t stop. He tries his hardest to deal with it but it sets off a chain of events that will challenge his divorced parents, his girlfriend (Winstead), his former therapist (Lynch) and much more.
When a script is as well-thought out as this one is, a great cast will only elevate it. While Scott easily carries the load, O’Hara and Jenkins are simply hilarious as his parents. Lynch is much more subdued than we’re used to seeing her, same for Duke, and both Winstead and Alba play characters that’ll challenge Carter to his core.
All of that is aided by a directorial style and script that forgoes many traditional Hollywood tropes, letting the audience most of the work. Several plot points and reveals are shown, not told, and if you’re not paying attention, important pieces could be missed. The film also demands you not only laugh, but think and feel, especially with an ending that’s so poignant and perfect, I can’t believe they pulled it off.
There’s very little bad to say about A.C.O.D. It’s one of those special films you watch and feel amazing about as you walk out of the theater.
/Film rating: 9 out of 10