A.C.O.D. is an anomaly of sorts, a comedy jam-packed with screaming, nagging, and chronic discomfort that you nonetheless want to spend more time with than you’re given. The film is willfully messy and disjointed, so as to mirror the chaos within real-life A.C.O.Ds (Adult Children of Divorce).
It’s at its acerbic, spryest best when the characters are at their least likable. Carter (Adam Scott), an anxious thirtysomething restaurateur, has spent his life trying to micromanage his shrill, antagonistic parents (Catherine O’Hara and Richard Jenkins), and the film’s predictable trajectory concerns Carter coming to realize the futility of such a mission and focus on himself.
But the cast transcends the familiar crises. Jenkins and O’Hara imbue even the crudest dialogue (they call the other’s new wife and husband “Cuntessa” and “Fuckface,” respectively) with jazzy, pitch-perfect precision. Jane Lynch, as the unctuous self-help author profiling Carter, has played arrogant New Age airhead roles to death, but is still hilarious all three times she prides herself on her own trite psychobabble (“I just coined a new term!”) Even the sometimes smarmy Scott is convincing as an overworked mensch.
But A.C.O.D. ultimately suffers from a rare affliction: an overkill of editing. Whole scenes—especially the farcical finale—peter out just at the simmering point, and Jessica Alba (as a fetching, sardonic fellow A.C.O.D.) disappears midway through. Director–co-writer Stuart Zicherman replaces the obligatory outtakes section with clips of crew members discussing their parents’ divorces, but the film’s ending is too pat and fuzzy to warrant this bleak slice of life. Zicherman should have trusted his dark instincts; he did too much micromanaging of his own.