Mar 15, 2015

Trailing Off: "Adult Beginners" (2015)

Welcome to the weekly column Trailing Off in which I take a look at a trailer from the past week and analyze its potential. This will be done using an obnoxious amount of analyzing and personal thoughts on the cast and crew as well as expectations. Coming every Sunday (it's called Trailing Off for a reason), I will attempt to highlight films ranging from new blockbusters to lesser known indies and give them their due. Partially to spread awareness, I do believe that there is an art to the sell and will do my best to highlight why these trailers matter or don't with approval (trove) or disapproval (trash). So please stop by, recommend some trailers, and I will see you next time.

Trailer in Discussion

Directed By: Ross Katz
Written By: Jeff Cox (Screenplay), Liz Flahive (Screenplay), Nick Kroll (Story)
Starring: Nick Kroll, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale

- Preamble -

It seems very easy to make the argument that comedians taking on serious roles has always been a popular trend. Last year had The Skeleton Twins show Bill Hader take on a complicated role full of heart and emotion. The only issue that I really have with this is that in general, they don't necessarily have any weight beyond this novelty concept to them. As good as that film was, it wasn't that great of a script and it meant that at best, it was a chance to watch Hader and co-star Kristen Wiig be funny together. It was the moments when the story became sporadic that it was actually at all very interesting. Sadly, the serious comedian shtick is a thing that is a little more loathsome than it gets credit for. There are very few exceptions to the rule, such as Sarah Silverman in Take This Waltz. Otherwise, it's a cautionary story.
Which is unfortunately how I approach this film. I don't really have much expectations on it, but by title alone I'm already worried that there is going to be some fulfillment in the text of adults learning to grow up. It isn't that this story cannot be done well. HBO's Togetherness proved it. However, I don't really have strong hopes for Nick Kroll. For all purposes, I must admit that I find him funny in doses, but as Kroll Show will suggests, he is best known for being off the wall with his humor and using aggressive actions to get laughs. I could hardly see him going nuanced. If he does, it is mostly in a way that even the half baked version will present something unexpected from him. By comparison, his co-stars aren't bothersome.
I do my best not to watch these trailers ahead of writing this Preamble because I want to share my honest predictions. In this case, I don't even know what the plot is. The trailer was chosen largely because I am familiar with the cast and have a vague understanding of what the film is going for. Also, the title is a little cringe-worthy for me. I don't know that it gives too much away, but it doesn't suggest anything fresh or exciting. I can only hope that I am proven wrong. I do hope for a lot from Rose Byrne, though I also don't know how much she is in this. We'll just have to see.

- Dissection -

I am happy to say that it doesn't look quite as much like a serious turn as I was expecting it to be. There's still some humor to be derived from the story. In fact, it does feature a lot of familiar alternative comedy names in the supporting cast such as Jason Mantzoukas and Joel McHale. They pop in long enough to say a few jokes and expect you to get the gist of the movie. In a sense, it is the plot of Togetherness with Kroll moving into Byrne's house momentarily as he gets his life together. Kroll drops a few deadpan jokes to clear the air and the trailer moves on. Whoop-de-doo.
The problem with the trailer is how immediately unmemorable it is. Even Kroll's choice to make jokes about getting older feel familiar. He seems bored by them, even if it's supposed to be in a serious tone. It doesn't help that the constructs of the trailer also feel reminiscent of the While We're Young trailer that I reviewed many weeks back. It feels like something that is forcefully trying to tell you that it's more than meets the eye. This tactic is actually also very indistinctness and has been used to death. It doesn't help either that the music is rather bland and indie-based in a way that doesn't capture the imagination. Nothing really stands out. It's one of those "If you like Kroll, you'll see it" type of films. Even that's a push.
It also is sort of much that the trailer packs everything into it. It feels predicated on telling you who is in it to an extent that it doesn't really give you much to care about. At best, Kroll is there and he's trying to get through life. There isn't any specific standout moment that is likely to become a selling point. It's about the names. In sad terms, this trailer doesn't have much going for it. For all I know those blurbs that give great reviews is true, but there's not enough confidence in the editing of the trailer to make me care about the final product. At best, it feels like something that will be largely consumed on cable when nothing else is on.

- One Sentence Sell -

Nick Kroll stars in yet another manchild film with yet another collection of familiar alternative comedians in yet another bland serious performance.

- Trash or Trove -

I'm sorry, Kroll. I think that you're funny, but what I'm seeing here isn't really selling me. I need something more confident and interesting to convince me to see your work. I think that the cast gives me hope that this is a lot better, but who knows how different the quality of the film is from this trailer. I need something more to sell me on this.

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