Review by Dan Skip Allen
Death can lead to drastically different reactions within the family structure. The Adults is a film that deals with various family issues after the death of a loved one, and is maybe one of the best movies I've seen about this topic in recent years.
Eric (Michael Cera, known primarily as a comedic actor), returns home to where he grew up to visit his sisters and find a poker game to play in. What he finds when he gets there is one sister, Rachel (Hannah Gross), who has had a hard time dealing with the loss of their mother, and another sister Maggie (Sophia Lillis, from the It franchise), who is glad to see her brother and get some quality time with him.
The director/writer of this film, Dustin Guy Defa, creates a terrific dynamic between these three siblings. Even though they haven't seen each other for three years, they fall back into many things they did together when they were younger, like singing and making up goofy creative songs or creating characters and voice impressions. These can mask how these people actually feel at times, and it is not fun when they get into arguments using these voice impressions, but they do work as a way to get anger or other emotions of disappointment out.
There are deep-seated emotions that have been locked away for quite a while, especially for Gross’s character. She holds resentment towards her brother, who left and didn't call or visit for so long. She even held on to the family home, which is something of a bone of contention between them. Lillis’s character tries to be a peacekeeper, but she is in her own world of what her life holds for herself because she made a decision that didn't make her brother happy. These siblings are as realistic as I've seen written lately by any screenwriter.
There is a subplot in the movie that takes up a lot of time, and that is that Cera has an ulterior motive for coming home besides visiting his two sisters. He's looking for a poker game. He finds one, and once he gets his head into the world of gambling, he can't stop thinking about it. He is very set on getting back to another game, and even postpones his flight a few times to play high-leverage games. Cera has a history with poker, as he was in Molly's Game, where he played a fictional version of Tobey Maguire. So this subplot had to interest him in the script when he read it. He's good at playing this type of character.
As someone with three siblings, I can say some of the dialogue and plot are very good. The story is very realistic toward families and siblings, but that is not the only thing that is good about this film. The cinematography is beautiful at times. The director takes moments off from the tension to showcase various locations in and around where this movie was made, and it's good as a respite for the dramatic sequences between the three siblings and the poker games. I was instantly enthralled by the look of the film from the beginning.
The Adults might not be the most accessible film for everybody, but for me it was very realistic in its portrayals of these three siblings. They all had their moments to shine within the script, and the direction and writing by Defa is some of the best this year. If viewers want a story about real people, this is it. I was completely invested in this family and their story through the good moments and the bad.
The Adults hits theaters on August 18.