Editor’s note: Allison’s review of A.C.O.D. originally ran during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but we’re re-running it now as the film opens in limited release.
According to Carter (Adam Scott), his parents were “married for nine years, but feels like they have been at war for a hundred.” Growing up in the crossfire of his parent’s epic fights and manipulations, it is surprising to discover Carter is now a well-adjusted adult in a healthy relationship of his own, despite being an A.C.O.D. (Adult Child of Divorce.) But when Carter’s younger brother, Trey (Clark Duke), proposes to his girlfriend after only four months of dating, Carter’s issues with relationships, marriage, and (most importantly) his parents, start to come out.
Carter’s father, Hugh (Richard Jenkins), is on his third marriage with the uptight and demanding Sondra (Amy Poehler), who Carter refers to as the “Cuntessa.” Carter’s mother, Melissa (Catherine O’Hara), is also re-married, this time to the understanding and patient Gary (Ken Howard.) Hugh and Melissa cannot be in the same room together (their fights are so intense the cops were called on Carter’s ninth birthday), but thanks to Trey’s impending nuptials, Carter is recruited to get the two to put their issues aside, at least for one day.
As he tries to hold everything together and micromanage his family through this blessed event, Carter turns to his childhood therapist, Dr. Judith (Jane Lynch), for advice. But his visit ends up being less than helpful and more revealing when Carter learns Dr. Judith is not a therapist, Carter was merely part of her research for a book she was writing titled, “Children of Divorce.” While Carter is shocked, Dr. Judith sees his entry back into her life as an opportunity for a follow up book that explores where those children are now.
On the heels of his meeting with Dr. Judith, Carter organizes a dinner between his parents to force them to put their contention for one another to rest once and for all. But Carter’s world becomes more and more unraveled the harder he tries to keep it all together. A.C.O.D. explores the many facets of relationships, and does so while delivering serious laughs, even when diving head first into some less-than-funny issues.
Scott proves he is a leading man here, and while he is surrounded by a hilarious supporting cast, it is Scott who truly shines, bringing real layers to Carter, making him both accessible and engaging to watch. Thanks to a sharp script by Stuart Zicherman and Ben Karlin populated by full realized characters, A.C.O.D. clicks along at a steady pace. Zicherman, who also directed the film, has brought together a strong comedic cast, but he also utilizes them well to create a funny film that even those of us who are not A.C.O.D.s (see: me) can relate to.
The Upside: Solid laughs from the entire cast with a breakout performance for Scott; an interesting new relationship dynamic for Scott and Poehler (best known as the engaged Ben and Leslie on Parks and Recreation); a fun side story in seeing how (and who) the other A.C.O.D.s are and how well-adjusted they grew up to be.
The Downside: Jessica Alba’s Michelle, a fellow A.C.O.D., felt unnecessary and her role did little to add to the plot or Carter’s journey.
On the Side: A.C.O.D. is Zicherman’s first feature, but he also has a strong background in television having co-created Six Degrees with J.J. Abrams and was recently a writer and producer for Lights Out.