A.C.O.D.: Sundance Review


U.S.A. (Director: Stuart Zicherman, Screenwriters: Ben Karlin, Stuart Zicherman)

Carter is a well-adjusted Adult Child of Divorce. So he thinks.  When he discovers he was part of a divorce study as a child, it wreaks havoc on his family and forces him to face his chaotic past. Cast: Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara, Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clark Duke.

The comedy will strike a chord with viewers who've had to "be the adult" in relationships with divorced parents

Adam Scott plays a man finally realizing his parents' divorce really screwed him up in Stuart Zicherman's debut.

PARK CITY -- A clearly very personal film that displays more psychological insight than most comedies built around a protagonist's "issues," Stuart Zicherman's A.C.O.D. (short for "Adult Children of Divorce") observes the unraveling of a successful young man (Adam Scott) who has no idea how deeply the decades-old divorce of his parents has affected him. Funny but less successful as comedy than as a cry of you-screwed-us-up solidarity, the film should play well with those sharing its hero's background -- a demographic whose size bodes well for the film, if not for the national psyche.

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Scott plays Carter, whose parents Hugh and Melissa (Richard Jenkins and Catherine O'Hara) went down in flames on his ninth birthday. Since the divorce, Carter has been responsible for keeping the two from ever being in the same room together -- a stasis jeopardized when kid brother Trey (Clark Duke) impulsively asks his new girlfriend to marry him.

Terrified at the prospect of hosting two mortal enemies at Trey's wedding, Carter goes to see the therapist who helped him as a kid (Jane Lynch) -- only to realize she wasn't a therapist, but a researcher working on a book about kids from broken homes. Unbeknownst to him, this bestseller shared Carter's intimate traumas (attributing them to a pseudonymous "Rick") with readers worldwide.

Seeing his childhood through pop-psychology's eyes isn't fun. Trying to reject the peacemaker archetype, Carter inadvertently causes his parents, who're both now married to other people, to start an affair, with the fallout threatening not just their marriages but Trey's wedding and Carter's happy-but-uncommitted relationship with girlfriend Lauren (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).

The film gets some comic mileage out of the notion of two parents who try to hide their lusty escapades from a disapproving son. But Zicherman and co-screenwriter Ben Karlin have a knack for illustrating how Carter's coping mechanisms cause him and his loved ones trouble -- scenes in which he tries to convince others how important it is to straighten his parents out are particularly well orchestrated -- and one wonders how this story would play if it weren't so concerned about getting laughs. Though he's known for TV comedies, Scott might shine in a more dramatic treatment, even if many other roles would need to be recast.

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Amy Poehler is badly used here as Sondra, Hugh's wealthy third wife, who gets neither good gags nor a real chance to earn the sympathy she may deserve. On the other side of the equation, playing Melissa's generous and easygoing second husband, Ken Howard is exactly what the part requires, using his limited screen-time to suggest that sometimes, people do get better at marriage after an unsuccessful try or two.

Production Companies: Black Bear Pictures, Superego Industries, Process Media

Cast: Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara, Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clark Duke, Ken Howard, Jessica Alba, Jane Lynch

Director: Stuart Zicherman

Screenwriters:Ben Karlin, Stuart Zicherman

Producers: Teddy Schwarzman, Ben Karlin, Tim Perell

Executive producers: Adam Scott, George Paaswell

Director of photography: John Bailey

Production designer: John Paino

Music: Nick Urata

Costume designer: David C. Robinson

Editor: Jeffrey Wolf

No rating, 87 minutes