‘Almost Adults’: Outfest Review

Brendan Adam-Zwelling/Almost Adults
You’re never too old to behave immaturely.

Growing up means growing apart for two longtime friends in Sarah Rotella’s debut feature.

Essentially a platonic rom-com about the evolving relationship between a queer young woman and her straight best friend, Almost Adults attempts to appeal to a diverse audience with familiar narrative conventions. Above all, it excels at remaining inoffensive, which isn’t always the best approach for an adult comedy dealing with high-stakes personal issues, although it could gain an online audience based on the filmmakers’ LGBTQ YouTube comedy channel Unsolicited Project.

There aren’t any secrets between besties Mackenzie (Elise Bauman) and college roommate Cassie (Natasha Negovanlis), with one major exception. Although Mackenzie knows she’s gay, she doesn’t realize that almost everyone close to her knows it, too. In fact, her parents are so supportive when she comes out to them that Mackenzie’s devastated that they aren’t more critical and unaccepting. The only one who’s apparently still clueless is Cassie, her unquestioned confidante in all other personal matters. After breaking things off with her ex-boyfriend Matthew (Mark Matechuk) and racking up a near-failing grade in her must-pass English class, Cassie understandably has other things on her mind.

Mackenzie isn’t going to let up until she finds a way to come clean with Cassie, though, enlisting the help of gay best friend Levi (Justin Gerhard) for strategic guidance. He recommends social media as the best way for her to get comfortable with her new openly gay attitude, and maybe find a girlfriend in the process. Instead, it’s Cassie who discovers Mackenzie’s open secret, leading to mutual recriminations. Meanwhile, Matthew has resurfaced with an interest in potentially reconnecting and Mackenzie meets a cute softball chick who’s really into her. As the women drift apart, the likelihood of reconciliation appears to diminish, just at the point where both of them could use the uncritical counsel of a longtime best friend.

Despite the film’s marginally unconventional setup, there’s never really much doubt about the outcome, so it’s really more about the ability of Adrianna DiLonardo’s script to elicit humor and surprise as the narrative unfolds, but instead it hews principally to predictability. The friends pull back and then temporarily reconcile, while they try to manage their love interests without getting too involved and argue over which one is more self-absorbed.

Negovanlis and Bauman slip easily into the roles of bickering BFFs and display some entertaining chemistry when they’re onscreen together, but the comedic quotient drops noticeably in scenes with mostly underwhelming supporting castmembers.  

Rotella has an eye for visual humor and comedic timing, which helps enliven some of the more familiar situations, such as an awkward houseparty where Matthew shows up with his new airhead girlfriend, who gets a prompt brush-off from Mackenzie.

Venue: Outfest (International Narrative Features)
Production company: Unsolicited Pictures
Cast: Natasha Negovanlis, Elise Bauman, Justin Gerhard, Winny Clarke, Mark Matechuk, Pujaa Pandey
Director: Sarah Rotella
Screenwriter: Adrianna DiLonardo
Producer: Rebecca Swift
Executive producers: Sarah Rotella, Adrianna DiLonardo
Director of photography: Ryan Glover
Production designer: Rosanna Lagace
Editor: Haya Waseem

Not rated, 90 minutes

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