Review by Sean Boelman
Many indie movies have their profile boosted thanks to a high-profile star in the leading role, and that is the case with M. Cahill’s family comedy Adopting Audrey. Elevated beyond standard indie film material thanks to a strong performance from Jena Malone, the movie doesn’t live up to the potential of its intriguing premise.
The film follows an adult woman who, feeling a void in her life, decides to put herself up for adoption and forms an unorthodox bond with the irritable patriarch of her adoptive family. Inspired by a true story, the movie is nonetheless overly melodramatic to the point of losing authenticity.
With a premise as bizarre as this, one would expect it to take a darkly comedic approach. But unfortunately, Cahill settles for a straightforward family drama approach. There are certainly some heartwarming moments throughout, but it generally can’t escape the feeling of being contrived and trite.
There are some compelling themes about acceptance and compassion, but its resonance is hindered by a script that largely feels like it is more suited to a movie of the week than a high-quality feature film. The script also hardly explores the idea of a family unit, which should have been central to this story.
The character development is largely lacking. Malone’s character is given a backstory to justify her somewhat bizarre actions, but it’s rather bland and shallow. The dynamic she has with her adoptive family is a very standard arc of a young person teaching an older person the error of their ways.
Malone’s performance is the main draw of the movie. She brings a lot of empathy to a character that is ultimately a bit on the absurd side. Robert Hunger-Bühler gives a turn that is very generic and perhaps too exaggerated, but his chemistry with Malone is strong enough to make things work.
The film is shot in a way that is very straightforward but competent. Everything about the movie is done in a way that feels saccharine and trite. Given that the film did not opt to go for the satirical angle, it makes sense that everything feels rather muted, but it also ends up being largely unmemorable and unspectacular.
Adopting Audrey does exactly what it sets out to do, but it never exceeds its modest ambitions. Jena Malone turns in yet another astounding performance, but apart from her contributions, the film is largely underwhelming.
Adopting Audrey hits theaters and VOD on August 26.