When talking about Adult Beginners, we might as well just begin with Rose Byrne. The versatile actress gives another wonderful performance as Justine, a teacher who’s got a 3-year-old son, and one on the way. Her brother, Jake (Nick Stoll), arrives at her door to crash at her place after his startup business crashes and burns. She’s in the middle of folding laundry and trying to get everything done that a Mom does. You can just see her juggling all the things she needs to do in her head.
As the movie progresses, we see Justine make some questionable decisions, but Rose plays her so authentically, and using all her natural charm, that you’re delighted by everything she does. From outrageous comedies (Neighbors, Bridesmaids) to heavy drama (Damages) to horror flicks (Insidious) to action flicks (X-Men: First Class), Rose continues to prove there’s almost nothing she can’t do (Annie showed she can’t sing).
Unfortunately, Adult Beginners isn’t just about Justine. Jake is the main focus here, and while Nick is somewhat appealing, he doesn’t have the gravitas to be a leading man. He’s pleasant in the role, but isn’t able to rise above the lukewarm material. The film has a lightweight story. It’s just a couple of 30-something siblings trying to make their lives work, and not necessarily being successful at it. Bobby Cannavale plays Justine’s husband, Danny, and it’s not surprising that he and Rose have great chemistry since they are a real-life couple. They both appeared in Annie (shudder) and the upcoming Spy, but this is the first time they really share scenes together. They are really fun to watch together.
Adult Beginners doesn’t finish with much impact, but it’s worth checking out for Rose’s wonderful work.