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 For example, two jabs at learning disabilities using completely outdated and sometimes offensive language that were truly unnecessary (including an egregious use of the r-word).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.