Movies like “Adult Beginners” are more well-meaning than your everyday multiplex paycheck grab, but in other ways they’re not much less cynical.
This is about the ten-thousandth film in which a self-absorbed oaf flames out and moves home to recover with estranged family in a bid to reconnect with whatever that special something is that he lost.
There’s no premise that better lends itself to an abundance of indie clichés. And “Adult Beginners” is so relentlessly packed with them that it’s possible to predict virtually every serio-comic beat right before it happens.
Nick Kroll, in an admirable bid to make something of deeper significance than his norm, plays Jake, who flopped in the Manhattan tech sector and is now returned to New Rochelle, living with his pregnant sister (Rose Byrne) and brother-in-law (Bobby Cannavale), and caring for his three-year-old nephew Teddy.
The picture, directed by Ross Katz from a story by Kroll, has laughter and tears, accusations and recriminations, memories reborn and new experiences shared. It sincerely wants to address the importance of family, to stress the fundamental necessity of carving out time for what really matters in life.
That’s all well and good, but the film is so milquetoast in its method, from the mild quirks of Jake’s interactions with Teddy to the halfhearted way it forces Byrne and Cannavale to have marital troubles. It’s on autopilot, in other words.