Adult Beginners

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Adult Beginners Movie Poster Image
Decent messages in tepid indie dramedy; language, drug use.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Work, success, and career are important, but sometimes you have to lose them all before you realize that none of it's as important as the people in your life.

Positive Role Models & Representations

None of the main characters are particularly positive role models -- which is kind of the point. Jake is incredibly self-centered; his sister, Justine, is passive aggressive toward the boss she dislikes; and her husband, Danny, isn't as great a father and husband as he seems. But all of them eventually learn to be more giving toward others and make big decisions that show they're figuring out what's most important.

Violence

A man talks about a prostitute falling and hitting her head, with bloody results, in front of a young child.

Sex

A couple kisses and caresses each other in bed; presumably they're either about to have sex or have just finished. No graphic nudity.

Language

Frequent language includes "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "pissed," and "d--k."

Consumerism

Characters use iPhones. Other brands mentioned include Bravo TV (and its shows) and news website TechCrunch. Premise centers on an up-and-coming tech entrepreneur who loses everything after an investment falls through; he has to start over with no money.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink fairly frequently at bars and parties. Several scenes feature drugs, including a party where people do cocaine. A father likes to smoke pot at night after his young child goes to sleep. An adult makes a questionable decision about drinking while she's with a high school student.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Adult Beginners is an indie dramedy that centers on a successful tech entrepreneur who's about to get rich -- but in the process has become a horrible person. Over the course of the story, he loses everything and starts to learn why personal relationships can be worth more than a successful IPO. So he's not exactly a positive role model, but he does grow and learn a few important lessons. Expect a fair bit of drinking (bars, parties, etc.), as well as drug use (both pot and cocaine) and frequent swearing (especially variants of "f--k" and "s--t"), as well as adults having inappropriate conversations in front of children and some kissing/implied sex.

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What's the story?

Jake (Nick Kroll) is an entrepreneur on the verge of hitting it big -- until his tech company implodes seemingly overnight, leaving him with no money and few friends. Despondent, he returns to his childhood home, where his sister (Rose Byrne) now lives with her husband (Bobby Cannavale) and their young child. With nothing else to do, Jake becomes a "manny" to his nephew, despite a total lack of experience with kids. After moping for a while about what he's lost, Jake starts to realize that in reconnecting with his family, he's also gaining something important: the human connections he had neglected in pursuit of fame and fortune.

Is it any good?

It has a simple premise and a worthwhile lesson, but it's not especially original and doesn't try to distinguish itself from other dramedies in which a stuck-up jerk learns the importance of family. The saving grace is the cast -- the three main characters all work well together, especially Byrne as a bored spouse with an unsatisfying job and loads of pent-up resentment. Guest appearances by some crack comedians -- including Bobby Moynihan, Joel McHale, Jane Krakowski, and Josh Charles -- also liven up a film that's sorely in need of some momentum.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether any of the characters in Adult Beginners are intended to be role models. Do they do anything admirable? Are they realistic?

  • What does Jake learn when he shifts gears from being a tech executive to being a live-in "manny" to his young nephew? Can you think of other movies or TV shows with similar themes?

  • What do you think about the relationship between siblings Jake and Justine? How does it change during the course of the movie? Teens: How is your relationship with your siblings (if you have them) similar or different?

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Themes & Topics

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