Almost Adults ****
Starring: Natasha Negovanlis, Elise Bauman, Justin Gerhard, Winny Clarke, Mark Matechuk, Pujaa Pandey
Director: Sarah Randella
There are so many films about female friendships nowadays. Whether the hook is that the girls are singing in an acapella choir or competing in a rollerderby, the subject of sisterhood is something that audiences find both accessible and endearing and in Almost Adults, the hook is very simple. One of them is a lesbian.
Cassie (Negovanlis) and Mackenzie (Bauman) are best friends and roommates, but as they head toward graduation, they begin to realise their lives are on the verge of changing forever. Cassie embraces this by breaking up with her boyfriend (Matechuk), whilst Mackenzie does by coming out as lesbian… to everyone except Cassie. Furious when she eventually finds out, Cassie becomes increasingly angry at Mackenzie’s self-involvement post-coming out, but Mackenzie feels the same about Cassie post-breakup. And though their GBF Levi (Gerhard) tries to mediate between them, the situation just gets worse and worse.
Plot-wise, this is pretty standard fare, but the writing is razor-sharp, with well-drawn and witty characters who are both irritating and adorable in equal measure. In using on-screen social media, it fully embraces the complex crossover between cyber and real-life friendships, while also hilariously ridiculing the now seemingly archaic concept of online-spouses. This is a film about young people for young people and by a young director. With Lena Dunham-style plotting and dialogue that owes much to Mumblecore, the word “fresh” was invented for films like this; effortlessly light, zingy and completely free of cynicism.
That’s not to say that you’re in love with the characters, however. Both Cassie and Mackenzie are deeply flawed individuals, who spend a lot of the time both irritating themselves and the audience. They are archetypal millennials, so convinced of their own entitlement that they believe their own struggles to be far more important than others’, but also that without a struggle they are nothing. In a hilarious coming out scene, Mackenzie is furious with her parents for accepting her sexuality, feeling that she was entitled to at least some derision that would justify her feelings of being outcast beforehand. But irritating though this is, the characters are written with their toes ever so slightly over the line as to be ridiculous, coming off as parodies of the generation they represent.
With multiple comic set-ups as Mackenzie explores her sexuality and Cassie keeps encountering her ex, the punchlines keep rolling in, with Elise Bauman really showing off her ability as a comic actress. Remiscent of a young Bridesmaids, the relationship between the two girls is what really drives the narrative, with their individual struggles subsidiary to their struggles together. At times predictable (I mean, obviously, we all know the outcome here), this is a vehicle to show off Bauman and writer, Adrianna DiLonardo. Unfortunately, these are sometimes let down by weaker members of the cast peppered throughout the film, whose characters are not as developed and whose performances do little more than pad out the girls’ world.
For light and frothy escapism, however, Almost Adults ticks all the boxes. Reflective of contemporary Queer culture, it capably depicts the development of sexual identity in the digital age. Yes it wanders into the realm of stereotypes at times, but this also detaches us enough to root for them even if we don’t necessarily like them. And eventually, you’ll find yourself wishing you were 21 again so you can be just as irritating as them and not care about it whatsoever. Unless you are 21, of course.
OUT NOW ON DVD AND NETFLIX.