Starring: Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara
Director: Stuart Zicherman
Running Time: 88 mins
A.C.O.D. is an American film about a man who, after having suffered the brunt of his parents’ brutal divorce, fins that he was a part of a research on the effects of divorce on children. Years later, he is approached to take part in a follow-up study, but it reignities chaos in his family.
Although A.C.O.D. manages to pull off the Hollywood comedy vibe pretty well throughout, featuring some good laughs, a strong ensemble cast, and a largely decent screenplay, it really struggles to balance that with its deeper, more dramatic plot, an issue that permeates throughout the whole movie and makes for an ultimately far more underwhelming watch than should have been the case.
Let’s start on the plus side, with the film’s opening half. In general, the first fifty or so minutes of this film is a flat-out comedy. Although it places a bit of focus on the family troubles of our main character, it’s a typical Hollywood comedy complete with zany characters and all sorts of awkward mishaps and the like.
Now, while that doesn’t earn the film endless plaudits for being original or intelligent, it does make for a fairly enjoyable and fun watch for the opening half. The comedy is light and simple, but it’s funny enough to make you laugh a good few times, and with the increasingly awkward state of our main man’s personal life, whether it be looking at his parents’ difficult relationship or the effects that has had on himself, it’s a surprisingly fun watch.
What’s more is that the performances add a lot to the fun factor of the film’s opening act. Again, they’re nothing exceptional, but with a great ensemble cast of brilliant comedy actors from TV and film, including Adam Scott, Amy Poehler, Richard Jenkins, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and more, there’s a lot of energy, chemistry and talent on display throughout, meaning that a fairly light and simple comedy is genuinely as entertaining as it can be, which I was delighted to see.
The issue with the film comes when things start to turn a little more serious. Now, while I have no problem with a comedy having a bit of depth and seriousness, I felt that the shift to an almost entirely dramatic situation in the film’s latter half was both abrupt and a missed opportunity.
On the one hand, I would have been perfectly happy to watch the same simple comedy to the end, and although it may not have made for such a riveting story, I felt that that was the atmosphere that director Stuart Zicherman was more capable of creating and maintaining.
On the other, the story at hand is potentially interesting, with the knock-on effect of a husband and wife’s bitter divorce on their son’s entire life featuring some real emotional depth, however the way that that side of the story is played out later on just isn’t engrossing enough, as the film chooses to play it safe with some rom-com clichés here and there, and a selection of very predictable tie-ups for the characters’ arcs.
Overall, while I enjoyed A.C.O.D., thanks to its light comedy and entertaining performances early on, it really struggles to maintain a good balance between comedy and drama throughout, and that makes for a somewhat underwhelming and disappointing watch come the end, which is why I’m giving it a 6.9.