“Fame is this generation’s black plague,” is one of Scott Coffey’s favorite lines from his second feature as a director, Adult World. “I thought it was kind of great line and a great truth,” says Coffey. “We all kind of want it and like it, but to seek fame only is shallow.”
Uttered by John Cusack as the once-acclaimed poet and deeply sardonic Rat Billings, the line isn’t only sharp and memorable (credit to screenwriter Andy Cochran), it speaks to more than one of the prominent themes within Adult World—the hunger for fame, accolades, instant gratification and the absence of passion and purpose, as well as the decaying notion of the American dream—all of which resonated with Coffey.
“It was a lot about a generation that had been over-praised and told that they could do whatever they want at the cost of reality,” explains the director. “I thought it was a funny place to start and had really good satire about the youthful kind of optimism that each generation has thinking that they have the right to the American Dream that doesn’t exist anymore.”
Adult World has Emma Roberts in her most impressive role yet, starring as Amy– a self-indulgent, aspiring poet who aspires to be published, renowned and celebrated her first year after college. Instead, she is met with question marks and limited employment opportunities, forcing her to take a job at a local pornography shop.
The character of Amy is complicated and the role called for a balanced eccentricity that Emma Roberts navigates really well. “I met a lot of good young actresses,” says Coffey. “Nobody seemed to have the kind of self-consciousness, but also the will and humor and vulnerability at the same time. That was a really tough thing to find and when I met Emma I knew right away that she was right.”
The actor and director, who previously directed Ellie Parker in 2005, also has a small role in Adult World and helped put together a wonderful supporting cast, which includes Evan Peters as the shop manager whose charm and earnestness open Amy up to new possibilities, John Cusack as a washed-up writer who reluctantly takes up Amy’s offer to be his protégé/maid and teaches her lessons of the harsher variety, and, Armando Riesco with a standout, crowd-pleasing performance as Rubio, the hilarious and nurturing drag queen that helps Amy come into her own.
“Everyone loves Rubio so much,” affirms Coffey. “Armando’s a wonderful actor. That was a really challenging role because I didn’t want it to be just some silly, parody of a drag queen. Rubio is someone who has a lot of dignity and a lot of strength.”
Adult World made its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last week and received an overwhelmingly positive response from the audience on opening night, a sign that the film succeeds as a funny and insightful satire that brings to the surface cold, hard truths about the fickle character of the latest generations of young adulthood, but still inspires some hope and positivity—all of which Scott Coffey explores through Amy.
“There’s enough sadness to the movie,” notes Coffey. “But also it’s a comedy so I liked adding those two elements to it.