In Scott Coffey’s Adult World, former Nickelodeon star Emma Roberts takes on the difficult task of convincing an audience to root for an obnoxious, self-obsessed aspiring poet, and doesn’t quite stick the landing. She plays 22-year-old Amy, introduced to the audience in the midst of a half-hearted suicide attempt. Staring listlessly at a poster of Sylvia Plath, Amy first sticks her head inside of an oven, then thinks better of that “suicidal plagiarism,” opting instead to pull a plastic bag loosely over her head. This is a fitting first introduction to our heroine: melodramatic and a little ridiculous. She’s the kind of girl who relishes in her white, hipster, middle-class ennui, describing riding a city bus as “like being in Mogadishu.”
The film then flashes back a year. After Amy’s parents decide that they “can’t afford to subsidize” her poetry career anymore and tell her that she needs to grow up, the loan-saddled college grad moves out of their home. Hurt by their lack of faith in her, she pursues a literary career by stalking her favorite living poet, Rat Billings (John Cusack), and takes a job at an adult video store managed by a cute, affable twentysomething male (Evan Peters) with the words “love interest” practically tattooed to his forehead. There are a few comic scenes where the virginal Amy squirms in the presence of dildos and “sticky DVD returns,” but from the oversexed store owner played by Cloris Leachman, to the display of vibrators that Amy clumsily sends crashing to the ground when she first enters Adult World, the humor is as broad as a football field.