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“Almost Adults” [2016]: Review

A young woman, Mack comes out as gay and deals with her new love life, but the real love story here is between Mack and Mack’s best friend Cassie.

Nerdeek Life MainIMG “Almost Adults” [2016]: Review Movie Review Reviews

A young woman, Mack comes out as gay and deals with her new love life, but the real love story here is between Mack and Mack’s best friend Cassie.

What was that? An LGBTQ movie that’s not a.) Focused on the gay woman falling in love with a straight woman who’s married or b.) entirely focused on the agony of coming out and the tumultuous love life ahead of her?

Yup, that’s right. Almost Adults stars Elise Bauman as Mack, Winny Clarke as Elliot, Justin Gerhard as Levi and Natasha Negovanlis as Cassie.

The comedic duo behind the ‘Gay Women Channel’ writer Adrianna DiLonardo and director Sarah Rotella have come up with a new LGBTQ comedy. It shouldn’t seem like a revelation but finally–an LGBTQ film written by LGBTQ ladies!

The film is focused on Bauman’s nerdy, self-involved but adorable Mackenzie who struggles with how to come out. One of the most hilarious scenes is her nervy coming out to her parents (Meredith Heinrich and Daryl Marks) who pretend to break down and cry but end up pranking Mack instead. Because, according to Levi, and her parents, everyone can tell already.

Except Cassie.

As Mack navigates her way around girlfriends, diarrhoea rumours and beer pong, Cassie gets fired from her internship) and breaks up with boyfriend Matthew (Mark Matuchek). It’s a love story in the sense that Mack and Cassie have their own disastrous love-lives, whilst their gay best friend Levi is doing excellently. But it’s a love story, mainly, between its two leads: Mack and Cassie. Their friendship is tested to its limits, with Cassie bitter Mack didn’t come out directly to her. However, like all good love stories, this one comes to a happy ending. Except it’s betwen two friends.

That’s what makes ‘Almost Adults’ so different; so special. So let’s dive right into why it worked and where it didn’t so much!

 

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‘Almost Adults’ pokes fun at nearly every single cliche surrounding the LGBTQ community and its relationships. It could be like every single other LGBTQ film and be all about the angsty married lady and the lesbian who loves her, but it’s not–each character is their own.

It’s brilliant how self-deprecating ‘Almost Adults’ is. Gerhard’s Levi even refers to himself as the ‘sexy’ GBF who is only there to give great advice, like in any other film with a gay man in it. Mack is decked out from the beginning in a check shirt she claims she’s worn for ten days straight (Mack! Ew!). Cassie’s the ambitious Negovanlis whose parents are so stuck up her mother cries hysterically at the posh restaurant they’re in after Cassie reveals she broke up with her boyfriend. And her mother cries. For Matthew.

The film is so chock-full of jaw-droppingly stupid scenarios that it should be utter trash. But for some reason it works because of that. Accompanied by a charming, dinky music score and some lovely cinematography by Ryan Glover, ‘Almost Adults’ gorges on adult idiocy. It’s the driving force of this film and perhaps it’s stated in this title. These should be responsible adults in control of their life, but it’s the exact tragic opposite. Instead, we get slow-motion beer pong, Mack’s try-hard hipster parents stealing all of the lines (“the Google”). And a scene in which Levi answers the phone in the middle of sex because his excuse for doing nothing is “I’m bottoming”.

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We don’t see Mack pining over a straight girl anywhere. Her love interest, Winny Clarke’s Elliot, is as charming as they come. And its relationship fails because of Mack’s inaptitude at social media, which ironically is probably Bauman’s weak spot too. We don’t get Mack falling in love with Negovanlis’ Cassie: she already is but platonically. Instead we get a real film in which a naive, newly out lesbian navigates her love life–and her pre-existing one with Cassie.

Cassie: Ugh, what is that?

Mack: Peach Schnapps.

Cassie …You are such a lesbian.

That’s the incredible charm of this film. The straight girl Cassie isn’t the object of Mack’s wandering desires. But if they’re anything apart from destined to be in each other’s lives forever and love each other forever, then, well, you’re wrong. And that’s what makes this film so different and so charming.

 

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This film is important in the sense that whilst many may not receive such understanding when they come out, Mack and the ‘Almost Adults’ cast and crew offer hope and laughter.

Not everyone gets it as easy as Mack when they come out to their parents. Some are accepting and some are the exact opposite. Luckily, in this film, Mack has the most hilariously open-minded parents ever who read their kid’s diary and watch ‘The L Word’ for guidance on…lesbianism. When she seeks breakup advice and how to win a chick over again from her parents, she gets this from her mother:

Lisa: “When your father and I were watching ‘The L Word’ and Bette cheated on Tina, she sent flowers and apologised! Oh, and write a note that says you hold all the cards.”

Mack: “For the love of God, stop watching ‘The L Word’ with dad. Just…stop watching it.”

But, quite like some of the big-hitters on television right now, good, enjoyable television does not automatically equate to ‘gritty and dark’. Not every film has to be Oscar-worthy to be good. And this certainly doesn’t have to, to resonate with the LGBTQ community. And it does exactly that.

Maybe queer teens or adults don’t want reminders of bad experiences of coming out, or anxiety coming out, or a very conservative family. Perhaps, for once, they’d just like to watch a film with an lesbian lead that doesn’t go down two angsty roads: one, the lesbian falls for a straight girl, or two, the lesbian spends the entire ninety minutes angsting over coming out.

Art should be escapism. Why not have some fun along the way instead of dully reminding LGBTQ audiences everywhere how repressed, depressed and down they should be?

And that’s how you know an LGBTQ team was behind this.

 

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The real love story is between the two best friends. It’s completely platonic but gorgeously written, and excellently played by Bauman and Negovanlis–who happen to have played lovers Laura and Carmilla in the webseries entitled ‘Carmilla’.

It’s a bit of a ball-twister because a.) Bauman and Negovanlis have played passionate lovers before and b.) the first scene is literally Cassie snuggling up to Mack in bed, arguing about who’ll make breakfast. It’s very domestic, very loving and very resembling of a married couple. But the charm is that they’re definitely not, and yet the great love story is between them.

We know the duo have insatiable chemistry (you can’t not, really, when you keep shoving your tongues in each other’s mouths, we suppose…)

Winny Clarke’s Elliot is about as sweet as they come, too. A softball player who’s relentlessly teased by her team-mates for not being able to get it on with a chick, that is the fabricated, cliched way she meets Mack. It’s basically the stuff of fanfiction: her team bet they can’t get the girl, and Elliot ends up with Mack’s number and winning the bet.

As Mack and Elliot draw closer, Negovanlis and Bauman shine as their characters grow distant. Bauman’s excellent at playing angry-but-confused, and Negovanlis’ disbelieving fury is gripping.

Nonetheless, they’re not perfect. Both Bauman and Negovanlis can be a little over-the-top or theatrical at times and it’s somewhat jarring for a feature film. We get it’s a comedy, but sometimes they revert to the single-camera campiness of ‘Carmilla’. That, however, is really their only weakness. Both have excellent chemistry with Gerhard’s hilariously Regina George slash Levi.

Hopefully, devoted fans of ‘Carmilla’ won’t be too disappointed by the film. Truly, the USP of the film is the friendship that cannot be broken between Cassie and Mack. It’s sweet, it’s angsty, it’s hysterical and it’s just plain heart-warming. And they leave you with wide smiles on your faces. That’s how every film should leave you.

 

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FINAL VERDICT: A standing ovation, please, for Adrianna DiLonardo and Sarah Rotella for creating a fun, light-hearted, witty LGBTQ film for the LGBTQ community–made by LGBTQ ladies. It isn’t perfect, but you won’t walk away without your heart warmed a little!

DiLonardo and Rotella make quite the team. Known for their usually hysterical videos as ‘UnSolicitedProject’ or commonly, ‘The Gay Women Channel’, their chemistry is palpable. So it’s easy to imagine that behind-the-scenes there were no cat-fights (maybe, maybe not). ‘Almost Adults’ has the advantage of a cast that’s mostly familiar with each other, and if not, they certainly come across as if they know each other incredibly well. For the chemistry between Bauman and Negovanlis, the two leads, it’s very easy to believe that in the film, Mack and Cassie have been life-long best friends.

Pujaa Pandey’s Tasha steals the show with minimal screen-time and maximum hilarity. There are a lot of moments in the film that make you react so viscerally. When you cringe, you really cringe. When you laugh (it’s either at Tasha or at Mack’s parents) it’s very loud. And when you go ‘aww’, it’s mostly at Bauman and Negovanlis’ ups and downs during the film.

We’ve stated it before: it isn’t perfect. But if you’re looking for a real LGBTQ film written for LGBTQ audiences by an LGBTQ woman with an LGBTQ cast…you get the idea. Look no further. It’s a subliminal message, too: we’re sick of straight dudes casting lesbian lovers under the male gaze. Lesbians don’t just have the angst of coming out or relationships with married women. They live normal lives and play beer pong and does everything a normal person does. Because. They. Are. Normal.

Bloody good job!

OVERALL GRADE: B

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Nicola Choi
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