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Adult Beginners Blu-ray Review

Adult Beginners (2015) movie poster Adult Beginners

Theatrical Release: April 24, 2015 / Running Time: 92 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Ross Katz / Writers: Jeff Cox, Liz Flahive (story & screenplay); Nick Kroll (story)

Cast: Rose Byrne (Justine Cabrera), Nick Kroll (Jake Winton), Bobby Cannavale (Danny Cabrera), Mike Birbiglia (Braden), Josh Charles (Phil), Jeffrey DeMunn (Bill), Caitlin Fitzgerald (Kat), Paula Garcιs (Blanca), Jane Krakowski (Miss Jenn), Jason Mantzoukas (Herman), Joel McHale (Hudson), Bobby Moynihan (Paul Reggio "Jackson"), Caleb Paddock (Teddy Cabrera), Matthew Paddock (Teddy Cabrera), Sarah Steele (Sarah Lipson), Celia Weston (Joy), Julie White (Shirley), Fred Melamed (voice of Story Book Reader)

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Nick Kroll is one of those comedic actors you see pop up in tons of places, none of them significant enough to spring to mind when you're thinking about or describing him. Perhaps you know him as a lead on FX's "The League", which is soon to air its seventh season.
Maybe you recognize him from his recurring role as shock jock Howard "The Douche" Tuttleman on "Parks and Recreation." Perhaps you recall his brief appearances in movies like Little Fockers, Date Night, Get Him to the Greek, and I Love You, Man.

Seemingly taking a page from the playbooks of repeat collaborators like Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and Kristen Wiig on how to transition from supporting film roles to leading ones, Kroll moves to the creative side, taking story and producing credits on Adult Beginners, an independent dramedy in which he also stars.

Kroll plays Jake Winton, who is introduced to us pitching MINDS i, supposedly revolutionary wearable technology of his own design. At a launch party, he and other friends are practically giddy with excitement over the product's lucrative launch, until he gets a call informing him that manufacturing has hit a snag. Having bragged that he's not inventor but an investor, Jake loses all of his money and a lot of his friends' money too. After his girlfriend leaves him and his friendships crumble, Jake has no alternative but to show up at his childhood home in New Rochelle, NY, where Justine (Rose Byrne), the older sister he hasn't kept in touch with, lives with her husband Danny (Bobby Cannavale) and their 3-year-old son Teddy (Caleb and Matthew Paddock).

An estranged sister (Rose Byrne) and brother (Nick Kroll) reunite in "Adult Beginners."

Claiming he'll crash there for a couple of days, Jake eventually admits he'll be there for months, prompting Justine and Danny to trust him with watching Teddy instead of sending him to daycare. Jake is ill-equipped to care for a child, but he gradually learns the ropes, falling in with a group of nannies and arranging playdates. Jake also becomes involved with his sister's family's life, from taking interest in her pregnancy to confronting Danny about a suspected infidelity to conquering old demons by accompanying Teddy at a parent-child swim class.

Adult Beginners is rather different from what we're used to seeing Kroll do. Counting Mumblecore icons Mark and Jay Duplass among its executive producers, the film largely avoids big laughs in favor of three-dimensional character study and a genuine interest in real-life responsibilities. Scripted by Jeff Cox (Blades of Glory) and "Nurse Jackie" executive producer/story editor Liz Flahive, Adult Beginners can be classified as a comedy and was marketed as such, but it has much less interest in filling up a joke scoreboard than it does in developing these characters as real human beings. The theatrical directing debut of veteran producer Ross Katz (Lost in Translation, In the Bedroom), the film still has its share of funny moments, as it would have to with a supporting cast populated by comedians, including Jane Krakowski, Bobby Moynihan, Jason Mantzoukas, Mike Birbiglia, and Joel McHale (whose limited presence is wildly overstated by poster/cover billing and representation).

Not the goofball he usually plays, Kroll is easy to take seriously as a man whose entire world has fallen apart and who is now trying to better himself. Byrne, as comfortable here as she was in projects as varied as Insidious, Bridesmaids, and X-Men: First Class, continues to be taken for granted; her productivity and versatility is virtually unrivaled among today's working film actresses and yet she doesn't seem to ever attract either celebrity gossip or serious academic praise. Cannavale could seemingly make a movie like this in his sleep, but he never sleepwalks through a job, injecting energy and humanity into the potentially unsympathetic third lead.

Jake (Nick Kroll) secretly lets off steam with his brother-in-law Danny (Bobby Cannavale) in a well-ventilated room.

The film is not without some issues. It introduces conflict without seeing it through. There are at least a few unsatisfying threads that start and stop without sufficient warning.
Many viewers will be dismayed by the fact that the movie just ends once the 90-minute mark approaches, with nothing tidily resolved or achieved. But, you know, that is the beauty of independent cinema; it need not be a slave to convention and formula or be market-tested to the point where creativity is grounded down to a familiar, unremarkable mush. Adult Beginners provides an experience that more closely resembles life than fiction. You may wish it reached a destination more clearly, but you can't fault it for beating to its drum and avoiding tired tropes.

Lack of commercial conventionality limited Adult Beginners to just 54 North American theaters this spring, from which it grossed a little over $100,000. This Radius-TWC release heads to Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday from Weinstein home video partner Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Adult Beginners Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Subtitled in English
Suggested Retail Price: $26.99
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($22.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video (May 25, 1999)


Adult Beginners is obviously low-budget fare, but that doesn't mean it has to look it on Blu-ray. The disc's 1.85:1 transfer is clean, sharp, and suitably defined. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack doesn't stand out in any way, for better or worse. It gets the job done adequately.

Director Ross Katz and actors Rose Byrne and Nick Kroll discuss their joint indie movie in "The Making of 'Adult Beginners.'" Bobby Moynihan, one of a number of recognizable actors turning up in small roles, makes a brief appearance on the Blu-ray's menu.


The Blu-ray includes just a single bonus feature in the generically-named HD featurette
"The Making of Adult Beginners" (9:53). It is comprised primarily of interview remarks from director Ross Katz and leads Rose Byrne and Nick Kroll, which are complemented by some clips from the film. The only standard element missed is behind-the-scenes footage and the piece doesn't noticeably suffer from that void.

The disc opens with HD trailers for Citizenfour, It Follows, and The Last Five Years. None of those is accessible by menu and Adult Beginners' own trailer is unfortunately but characteristically not included.

The ordinary menu devotes most of the screen to a scored, looped montage.

With no Digital copy included, the unslipcovered keepcase holds no inserts next to the full-color disc.

Jake Winton (Nick Kroll) bounces back from rock bottom by watching his nephew Teddy (Caleb or Matthew Paddock).


The sincere indie Adult Beginners gives you a bit more to chew on than the typical comedy. Though it won't be everyone's cup of tea (as its mixed, middling reviews indicate), I found it a thoughtful and enjoyable little human dramedy. The basic but fine Blu-ray is good enough to recommend a rental.

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Reviewed August 2, 2015.

Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 Radius-TWC, Duplass Brothers, Burn Later Productions, Through Films, Good at Bizness, Inc., and Anchor Bay Entertainment.
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