Adult World

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Adult World Movie Poster Image
So-so coming-of-age film set in porn rental store.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 97 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

It's important to follow your dreams, but as Amy learns, the real world can be tough on dreams. Despite some very discouraging setbacks, she finds a way to temper her initial expectations while still seeking fame as a young poet.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Amy is young and naive, and at the start of the film it's hard to take her seriously. During the course of the film, she learns some important lessons about the real world, with the help of a jaded, older poet who isn't especially nice to her, but is honest and tries to steer her in the right direction.


Some bickering between friends, and in one heated argument, a girl throws books and other objects across the room and then destroys a guitar. A girl watches her car get stolen and is later unable to stop someone from shoplifting from her store. She also tries to put her head in an oven and a bag over a her head in an attempt to channel a suicidal, edgier poet.


Surprisingly tame for a film set in an adult video store. A girl is shown in her bra while kissing a boy, and later a couple is shown kissing and then later seen in relaxing in bed after sex. The scenes at the store show numerous sex toys in the background, and there's some discussion about the various genres of DVD that are sold. A drunk girl propositions a guy, who turns her down.


Some occasional swearing, including numerous variations of "s--t," "ass," "bitch" and one well-timed "f--k."


One scene includes people drinking Jack Daniels whiskey.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some characters smoke cigarettes, and later indulge in "medical marijuana" in a non-clinical setting. A young woman gets very drunk, chugging whiskey straight from the bottle.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that while Adult World is indeed set in an adult DVD store, there's not much actual sex in the movie. Yes, there are a few bawdy discussions about the various types of videos available at the shop and plenty of sex toys visible in the background, but the film focuses on a (fairly) recent college grad with no means to support herself (besides her parents) who needs a job until her dream of becoming a paid, published, famous poet comes true. There are a few scenes that show people getting pretty drunk or smoking pot, and occasional swearing (mostly "s--t" with one well-timed "f--k").

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What's the story?

Amy (Emma Roberts) is finished with college but still lives like a student, bunking with her parents, who support her, and spending the days sending in her poems to literary reviews and competitions. Never mind that she's trying for top-notch magazines like the New Yorker and isn't all that entirely good at finding her true voice as a writer yet. (She does, however, have a Sylvia Plath poster in her room.) She also has no other way to pay her bills, including her student loans. Out of desperation, she pursues a famous writer (John Cusack) and begs to be his assistant, working for free and demanding he mentor her. She also takes a job working behind the counter at ADULT WORLD, an adult DVD rental shop, where she befriends a transvestite cabaret singer and a coworker with his own artistic ambitions who encourage her to start examining herself and start applying herself, in earnest.

Is it any good?

This is a passably funny coming-of-age movie that may resonate among older teens contemplating college -- or what to major in -- and perplexed about what they want to be when they grow up. Growing up, however, doesn't seem all that impressive here, unless one's dream is to become an aging hipster writer who's beset by fans who still want to discuss the brilliance of a book you wrote decades ago. Cusack is razor-sharp in his role as Rat, his bon mots cutting right to the core, like a Lloyd Dobbler gone cynical.

But what exactly is the film's point of view about the titular adult world? That you can't be a poet in it? (Many an aspiring writer and filmmaker have told movie-watchers this. So: duh.) That you can't look down on people who work in a sex shop? (Again: duh.) What magic the film has is in Amy's relationship with her newfound friends and, more so, Rat, but the epiphanies she has are either obvious or superficial, robbing the film of much of its potential. See it for the laughs, but not for complexity. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages about dreams. What point is the film trying to make about life goals? Does this movie treat young adulthood realistically?

  • Why is this movie set in an adult DVD shop? Would the movie have been very different if it were set in a library or a tool shop?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming of age stories

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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