Every summer since “Star Wars,” pundits have complained about The Death of Adult Film. Sunday, it was the Washington Post‘s Ann Hornaday’s turn to speculate on why “movies for grown-ups are in the cross-hairs,” or, in her formulation: “Hello, ‘Paul Blart.’ Sayonara, ‘Frost/Nixon.'”
The article’s assumption is that anything that isn’t explicitly blockbuster schlock or a kiddy flick qualifies as “adult.” That means that Liam Neeson’s kick-some-terrorist-ass fantasia “Taken” is “adult”; “Angels & Demons” is “adult” because it involves the Vatican. Being “adult” doesn’t equal the confronting of unpleasant truths about how people interact, subtlety in characterization or delays in instant gratification; it’s just another marketing problem for anything that isn’t Sundance quirk (Hornaday calls “(500) Days Of Summer” a “poverty-row striver”) or CGI bombast.
Same as it ever was. I’m more bemused by David Duchovny’s take on the issue. In a Random Roles interview with the AV Club‘s Noel Murray, the former Fox Mulder gets especially hung up on 1975’s “Shampoo” as an exemplar of the “adult anti-hero.”
Far be it from me to speculate on why a high profile sex addict (who also plays one on TV!) would be longing for a return to Warren Beatty’s sexually aggressive anti-hero days. Nor do I think that there is something inherently adult about the idea of the “anti-hero.” But Duchovny does touch on something that is indeed “adult”: movies that center on one individual’s experience without throwing up much of a plot to market it around.
Duchovny seems to be overly concerned with sex-addled males, but he’s not wrong. “Adult” isn’t a question of, say, starchy Oscar-bait dramas that congratulate you for showing up to sit through them; it’s a willingness to come to an experience without knowing in advance exactly what you’re getting. Score one for Spooky.
[Photo: David Duchovny in “Californication,” Showtime, 2007]