Film, 2016, 2.5 stars
Directed: Sarah Rotella
Written: Adrianna DiLonardo
I think probably the most complimentary thing I can say about Almost Adults is that it is utterly inoffensive on every level. It’s completely middle of the road, essentially a platonic love story between two best friends, one of whom happens to be queer. Unfortunately, that does also equate to boring. It took me three tries to watch it all the way through, I kept getting distracted by other things in my life, like cleaning my teeth or doing the laundry.
Mackenzie “Mac” (Elise Bauman) is struggling in a weirdly non-struggling way with being gay. She’s known it for a while, it’s just that suddenly spring is busting out all over with her hormones and she wants to get laid, so that means admitting this mildly irritating condition to the world, particularly to her best friend Cassie (Natasha Negovanlis).
I swear, it’s like Mac has a weird rash or something rather than "the gay", so intensely does she screw up her face every time she talks about it, particularly to her annoyingly accepting parents. She is, however, openly watching lesbian porn and softball games in her loungeroom in a weird, passive aggressive coming out exercise. (This filmmaker definitely watched But I’m a Cheerleader as a youngster, the tropes are here, just not as funny as they were the first 20 times they were used in lesbian films).
Mac proceeds to tell pretty much everyone else except Cassie that she’s gay, and manages to pick up a new soccer-playing girlfriend while discovering Tumblr and chatting up women (really?). Apparently the reason for this is that she’s afraid of Cassie’s reaction, though it could also be because Cassie has recently broken up with her on again, off again boyfriend and is selfishly declaring how miserable she is to everyone who will listen.
The film tries to be funny, the problem is all the attempts are either disastrously awkward or just trying too hard. Working against any hope of connecting with the audience in any meaningful way is the main and supporting cast. Elise Bauman has two faces that she uses interchangeably, either naively bewildered, or comically outraged. There doesn’t seem to be anything in between. Negovanlis just looks alternately pissed or miserable. There’s just no real reason to like or empathise with either of them.
Trying his best to salvage the whole thing is Mac’s gayboy friend Levi (Justin Gerhard), but the poor man has been cast in what I call the “Translator” role. His entire presence appears to be to explain queer culture for the benefit of the straight audience who might not be quite getting the in-jokes, all under the guise of explaining it to a clueless Mac. We even have a borderline-revolting scene where Levi and Mac test her gaydar on campus. I’m pretty sure we saw this joke in season 1 of The L Word, and it didn’t work there either.
Almost Adults feels like an early 90s film escaped and started to run amok in our time, something it shares with films like Jenny’s Wedding. It’s really bland in 2016, tame to the point of irrelevance. There are important messages about love, coming out, and trust between friends being explored here, only the way they’re approached is so old school I’m surprised someone isn’t wearing pink neon leggings.
I think this will run successfully on cable TV and comes across like what my American friends used to call an "after school special". Maybe it will gain a fan or two from the crowd that like any film featuring two women kissing they can find on Netflix, but it’s not worth seeking out. This concept has been done so much better before, and really didn’t need to be done again.