Warning! This review contains minor spoilers for the movie Almost Adults!
Almost Adults is a new film by Sara Rotella and Adrianna DiLonardo, the ladies behind the Gay Women Channel on YouTube. It stars Natasha Negovanlis and Elise Bauman, two women you know best as Carmilla and Laura from your favorite queer vampire webseries.
Almost Adults tells the story of two young 20-something best friends rocketing toward the end of their senior year of college. They’re right in that time-to-start-figuring-out-who-I-am space, with Mackenzie (Bauman) starting to come out to her friends and family as a lesbian, and Cassie (Negovanlis) trying to figure out a career path while reeling from recently breaking up with her boyfriend. Over the course of the movie, we watch these two girls start to grow into the adults they’ll be someday (Get it? They’re … almost adults?), and try to figure out if growing up means growing apart. It’s like Life Partners Jr: The Younger Years.
Almost Adults isn’t perfect. Like most queer movies and TV shows not created by Shonda Rhimes, the cast is overwhelmingly white. And there are some tasteless jokes sprinkled in among the hilarious ones. For example, two jabs at learning disabilities using completely outdated and sometimes offensive language that were truly unnecessary (including an egregious use of the r-word).
The movie leaned into some stereotypes — the sassy gay best friend, how lesbians dress and what they like — which is always a fine line between making queer women cringe and making queer women feel like they’re in on the joke. It helps that I knew queer people were involved in making it, so I knew they were coming from a tongue-and-cheek place not a “I don’t understand how gay people work I’ll just go with these few stereotypes”.
Plus, some things were just funny and I don’t even care if straight people don’t get the jokes, like a lot of the retrospective “why we should have known Mackenzie was gay” conversations were not unlike actual conversations I’ve had with my friends, right down to being the only girl who didn’t want to be the Pink Power Ranger. (I wanted to be the Green Power Ranger because he got to kiss the Pink Power Ranger but little Valerie thought it was just because it seemed really important to the other girls to be the Pink and Yellow Power Rangers so I’ll just be the Green one it’s fine nothing to see here).
Even though the internet would have us believe otherwise, you can love and criticize something at the same time, and there’s a lot to love about Almost Adults. I’ll start with the most random one: The film incorporated technology (specifically texting) in a way that didn’t feel like it was written by time travelers who’ve never seen an iPhone. So many movies and TV shows try and it’s awkward and terrible but this movie nailed it.
My favorite subplot was Mack’s parents being uber-supportive and it frustrating the ever-living heck out of Mack because she was expecting a dramatic blow-out like pretty much every other coming out story portrayed by movies. It was a nice twist, and made for some great comedic moments.
Overall, Almost Adults is really fun to watch. And it flips the script on a lot of classic lesbian movie tropes. The story is about two young women: one gay, one straight. But the major problem in the story isn’t about Mack coming out and Cassie not accepting her, nor is it about Mack harboring feelings for Cassie. It’s about them both being young and selfish and trying to figure out who they were and how they fit into each other’s’ lives. A lot of their problems are very specifically 22-year-old problems, but there are also a lot of universal problems, like the fear of the friendships you love most changing when you come out and having a best friend you love like a sibling just in general. The emotional conflict all felt very real.
And I’ve saved the best thing about this movie for last: Elise and Natasha. I was a little nervous going in: What if I hate it? What if it ruins Carmilla for me forever? (I don’t know, I never claimed to be a rational person.) And it’s clear from the very first scene that Mack and Cassie are nothing like Laura and Carmilla. But in this movie, Elise and Natasha are delightful. They play off each other with an ease that makes you instantly comfortable, and their facial expressions/physical comedy/line delivery had me giggling at every turn. They were awkward in the right places, sweet at the right moments, and the emotional crux of the movie was really well done. (They’re even cute in the Blooper Reel.)
I’d give this movie 7/10 rainbow emojis, a specific scale for LGBTQ+ movies I just made up and is totally arbitrary. At least three of those rainbows are because no queer women died in this one, and one full rainbow for the inclusion of a classic queer movie staple: A Feelings Bench.
I am very qualified to make this rating scale. I spent my summers home from college in the very small, rather dusty, Gay & Lesbian section of my local Blockbuster (RIP) watching just about any movie featuring two women in love or lust I could get my hands on. We all did that in our own ways, I suppose. We’re all experts at the small canon of lesbian cinema. That’s why it’s so nice to have a mostly feel-good film to add to the mix.
Almost Adults is available online now, so grab your best friend and your favorite snack and check out AlmostAdultsMovie.com to get watching.
I saw Almost Adults at a film festival this past fall (NewFest). It was very cute and fun, and I actually didn’t know about Carmilla before seeing the movie. I’d definitely recommend it.
And is just skyrocketed to the top of my priority list
Never seen Carmilla so I guess I won’t have any issues with it.
I must admit I skipped the entire review so as not to be spoiled and hopped on over right to the iTunes Store.
Thanks for the heads up!
The film wasn’t terrible, and the leads were very good, but I’d just like to point out that the ‘jokes about mental illness’ were jokes about people with learning/developmental disabilities, which is… harder to stomach. Especially with just how utterly poorly disabled, especially learning disabled, people are treated. Saying there’s a joke about mental illness is misrepresenting it.
Especially since often times, people with such learning difficulties (the slur used was the R-word, usually used to connotate those specifically with Downs Syndrome) aren’t given the voice or the platform to object to the way they’re treated, represented, and used as the butt of a joke.
It’s especially upsetting since multiple upon multiple people have tried to start a conversation about this with the Gay Women Channel since the first time the film premiered at film festivals, only to be either utterly ignored, or told that the slur was in there to ‘push the envelope’, which. Seeing as absolutely no one in the film called the character out on using the word, isn’t challenged, and isn’t framed as a terrible thing to say.
Furthermore, making fun of learning disabled people isn’t edgy, or pushing the envelope, it’s the norm. Especially in this film. One use of the r-word, and two jokes about being ‘mentally challenged’. Again, these are jokes about disabled people, not those with mentally illnesses.
People have been campaigning since the film’s premier to get at least the R-word removed, which was no small movement. A lot of people were involved in trying to draw attention to this. The lack of response was incredibly disheartening, though not unexpected.
I don’t know. This film wasn’t terrible, but it’s upsetting to not only have to watch a film that makes several jokes about disabled people just for the laughs, but to also see those ‘jokes’ be misrepresented as taking light shots and a different group of people.
(which, as a disabled queer person with depression, i’m not saying that jokes about mental illness are ‘less bad’, I’m just saying that that wasn’t the issue. The issue was that the jokes were made about those with learning disabilities, in a world that already treats them far worse than their non-disabled counterparts).
I was highly disappointed that they used the r-word. I mean…it’s 2017. You know better. And it added absolutely no substance to the scene.
Thank you for this comment. Valerie specifically called out the use of the r-word in her review and listed the other specific offenses, but when I edited it, I condensed the paragraph to broadly say “mental illness.” I’m going to add that call-out that she made back into the review, and I apologize for removing it in the first place.
Yay! Another coming out tale where the straights don’t freak out about all the gay!
maybe I’m a jerk, I felt pretty *shrug* about it. I know the internet has stars in their eyes for actresses from Carmilla. I think the best thing I can say about this film is that the writing is Gilmore Girls-ish, which means it’s witty but superficial.
Also, the main character talks about her awkwardness about sex in a way that entirely gross and awkward, in a way that those things can be played in a way to deeply humanizing and endearing but instead just made me cringe a whole bunch.
Also the GWC in general deals in stereotypes about queer women that feel like a cynical spin where they miss the earnestness and value of people’s genuine decisions and reduces queerness to a selection of button-ups and snapbacks in a way that makes me feel empty on the inside.
I’m with you. It wasn’t a very good movie, and in 5 years we’ll remember it as one of those bad lesbian movies from which we’re supposed to consider it a respite.
I literally saw this article posted to Facebook right after finishing this movie!
But, I wasn’t nearly as excited about it after watching :(. I cringed through a lot of it and felt like the plot really dragged on… both of the main characters were kind of insufferable. I agree with the comparison to Life Partners, except that I actually liked Life Partners, and felt like giving up on this half-way through :/.
Yes, agree. I think we have so few truely good lesbian movies that we fall into the illusion that the bad ones are maybe not so bad…
2nd best thing about this movie is Canada.
10 minutes in and want to give up on it already…The characters feel superficial and the whole thing feels forced. And using the r-word in this day and age is inexcusable.
Also I know it’s supposed to be a joke or whatever but the whole ‘ah my parents didn’t get upset when I came out to them woe is me’ is actually super upsetting and incredibly privileged when so many lgbtq youth face horrendous consequences for coming out, so….
Ya. Not too sure why this movie has gotten such greatness praise.
Yes! U found the leads so unlikeable and the “my supportive parents are the worst” really got under my skin. I watched the whole film hoping it would somehow redeem itself but it kept getting worse. I wouldn’t recommend this to my worse enemy.
Lesbians are very tough audience, eh?
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting media made for/about us to actually be decent.
Of course we are.
Various people had all kinds of expectations about this movie, and that’s perfectly ok. What we got was a non-traditionally structured rom com, because the central romance the comedy built around is Mack and Cassie but they’re BFFs rather than a romantically involved couple in the normal sense and they both have or had or whatever other sexually involved people at various points. Rom coms are never 100% popular (with any audience) so it’s no surprise it didn’t work here.
Then we had a pair of rather self-involved, fairly well-off white girls. (I’m in my 50’s, they played young enough in attitude I want to describe them as girls, not women, aided by the title of the film, sorry if that offends anyone but it’s my impression of how they acted.) There are thousands of other coming out stories that could have been told, all of them deserve to be told, but given they want a rom com where the conflict comes from Mack and Cassie not understanding each other, or Cassie not understanding why it was hard for Mack to tell her, Mack’s parents need to be supportive. That’s just as true a story as all the bad ones.
I think this was more than light-weight froth. It told a version of a coming out story that had enough similarities to mine that I recognised it even though I’m more than old enough it certainly wasn’t 100% there, and I hope at 22 or so I was a damn sight more mature than these two characters. It’s better to have a fairly funny, true of some sorts of coming out film out there than have more bury your gays for example. I hope we get good films about some of the other types of story too but the fact this doesn’t tell them doesn’t automatically make it bad.
I’ve loved the movie and loved your review even more Valerie!
Yes, the movie isn’t perfect (like the last scene of them just gesturing… man, that was so unnecessary!) but overall it was a delightful surprise!
I just can’t stand some Carmilla fans that were talking s**it about the characters just because they don’t end up together! Or that Natasha’s character was straight and making out with men. I really wanted to shout “grow up, people!” at them so baddly but I’ve kept my self control pretty well!
Now I’ll just wait for the Carmilla movie to be great and I’ll keep cheering for the girls to keep thriving in their careers cause that’s what fans do!
Hearing them swear for the first time in this movie really threw me for a loop. I was just shocked and i don’t know why because i swear like a sailor.
I really liked this film. Like it was actually good rather than merely not terrible, the level I’m used to hoping for in queer films.
The relationship between the two leads felt very real, the changing of their lives and their friendship.
But I did just spend the time wondering what on earth people with learning disabilities had done to the makers to deserve the ‘jokes’ that came up. This wasn’t just one time, it was at least three. And it was entirely discordant with the rest of the film.
I found this movie enjoyable overall, but there were quite a few things that bothered me about it. Mainly, why resort to such tired stereotypes? Filmmakers should be broadening the concept of what it means to be queer and what queer people look like. Like the part when Cassie picks up Mack’s shirt and sighs, “I should have known she was gay.” Reinforcing the idea that you can identify a queer person by their clothing is so annoying.
And what about the part when Mack said that she could only bear to date her ex boyfriend because his dick was so small, it was practically a vagina? That was fucked up.
My girlfriend and I watched this movie largely because of this review, and I have to say I am very disappointed. This movie didn’t even meet my lowered expectations of a queer movie, and this review feels overly positive to me. I do agree that you can love something and still criticize it, but I found little to love in this movie, partially because I found so much to criticize and partially because I found it rather boring.
For one thing, I found the use of the r-word unnecessary and, honestly, unrealistic. Most people I know wouldn’t use that word because they’ve heard that it’s offensive. Also, the jokes about paraplegic people in porn and the constant slut-shaming of the ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend were off-putting to me and decidedly un-funny.
Secondly, I didn’t find any of the characters likeable. Mack constantly complaining about things that were actually good things was obnoxious, and her GBF felt stereotypical and uninteresting. Cassie felt like the most likeable character, but still she didn’t have enough substance for me to want to root for her. And that’s the number one thing I learned in any fiction writing class: give readers someone to root for. An audience needs someone to rally behind. Neither Mack or Cassie did this for me.
I’m very disappointed that I paid to watch this movie. I expected so much more.
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