‘A.C.O.D.’ a clever exploration of divorce
In quasi-documentary form, A.C.O.D. (or “Adult Children of Divorce”) opens with telling us half of marriages end in divorce.
Running time: 87 min.
Stars: Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara, Jane Lynch
By etching this fact into our minds, A.C.O.D. casually proceeds as a seriocomic work of fiction by first-time director Stu Zicherman. There’s something endearingly amateurish to Zicherman’s aesthetic, taking a salient modern issue and attempting to poke fun at it.
Chances are most of you reading this article have been affected by divorce — either directly or indirectly.
In fact, California’s divorce rate has reached more than 60 percent.
Sometimes the partings between parents are harmonious (this is rare); sometimes they’re disastrous (this is common). It’s an understatement to say our protagonist Carter, played by Adam Scott, had a comically and tragic childhood stemming from the latter.
Now in his mid-thirties, Carter has left his parents in the dust and made something of himself. Or so he thinks.
He runs a restaurant, owns a home shared with younger brother Trey (played by a boyish Clark Duke) and has a lovely girlfriend Lauren (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Though they’ve been together four years, Carter has no wedding plans in sight.
And why would he?
His parents Hugh (Richard Jenkins) and Melissa (Catherine O’Hara) haven’t exactly made a convincing case for matrimony. Caught in the middle of a divorce for 15 years, Carter has seen his dad’s relationships with a myriad of younger women uniformly crumble to pieces, while his remarried mother continues to bicker about how awful his father is.
However, Carter believes his parents’ romantic troubles play little part in his own life.
And for awhile our leading man convinces himself of this — until his younger bro decides to tie the knot with his girlfriend of three months.
This forces Carter to not only address the idea of marriage, but to take on the arduous task of bringing Hugh and Melissa (who have vowed to not speak to one another, let alone be in the same room with each other) together for Trey’s special day.
In true domino effect fashion, Trey’s decision wreaks familial havoc for everyone — save for himself.
The whole situation is exacerbated when Carter discovers A.C.O.D., a book that extensively describes his childhood, penned by pseudo-psychiatrist Dr. Judith (Jane Lynch). Judith resurfaces and convinces Carter to be part of her new book — a book that will describe how wounded children of divorce have turned out as adults, professionally and romantically.
Lynch and Scott’s interactions are some of the more enjoyable moments of the film, both characters replete with a wry and witty sensibility that play off each other.
Through Judith’s interviews with Carter, A.C.O.D. makes the potent point that we live in an age where most of our youth have grown up in a divided household.
It’s to no surprise then that the conceit of marriage is not a particularly appetizing one. Carter is merely emblematic of an entire generation.
However, contrary to what Carter keeps proclaiming (especially to Lauren), A.C.O.D. is less about a middle-aged man learning to accept his reckless, perhaps morally reprehensible parents, and more about the journey of accepting himself. The utopia he once created — in which he was unaffected by his tumultuous upbringing –- slowly recedes into the distance.
Surely Carter’s existential crisis caused more pain and trouble than he probably desired. No matter, A.C.O.D. cleverly and affectionately captures that crisis, and the subsequent maturity that comes from the experience.
Although overlong and sporadically aimless, A.C.O.D. reminds me of something Woody Allen’s Manhattan so thoughtfully taught us many years ago:
We’re all just human beings. We make mistakes, we fall in love and then we fall out of love — often times to varying degrees of heartbreak and despair.
Surely Hugh and Melissa are far from the ideal parents. But they are, despite the juvenile behavior and seemingly blatant disregard for Carter, flawed individuals like you and I, prone to hurting others and themselves.