From the west coast of Los Angeles to the Hollywood of the South in Atlanta, Georgia, film communities come in all shapes and sizes across the metropolitan cities in the United States, and California-based female filmmakers Jacquie Phillips and Stefanie Black converged with actor/writer Ted Welch in the city of Nashville to make their debut feature film Adult Interference, a comedy about a washed-up actor whose unlikely bond with a middle school boy helps him learn important lessons about manhood. After winning the Audience Award in the Tennessee First Feature competition at the 2017 Nashville Film Festival, the comedy has made its arrival onto VOD platforms everywhere, and is a hilarious, irreverent romp worth checking out for those wondering about films being made far away from the Hollywood studio system.
After a night of heavy drinking gone wrong, a deadbeat, washed-up actor must look back on his past and learn how to grow up in this irreverent comedy from independent film distributor Gravitas Ventures.
It’s been said that great artists can come from anywhere, and evidence of that can be found in film communities across the country. Documentary filmmaker Bing Liu remains in the suburb of Chicago following the success of his feature documentary Minding The Gap, independent auteurs Richard Linklater and Terrence Malick remain based in Texas after years in the independent scene, while writer/director Panos Cosmatos currently resides just outside the country in Vancouver. When it comes to why certain filmmakers prefer to live outside of Hollywood, the plethora of reasons range from a difference in attitudes, financial affordability, and feeling more like a spoke on the wheel in the proverbial Hollywood machine. But with a career in cinema comes the importance of relationships, and three people who turned their connection into a working relationship in the film industry despite miles between them are the trio of Stefanie Black, Jacquie Phillips and Ted Welch.
After graduating with their undergraduate degrees from NYU, Phillips and Black met Welch in 2004 at the Williamstown Theater Festival in Massachusetts. From there, the trio collaborated with each other on plays and their own films ever together since, and moved to Los Angeles to further their ambitions and take their careers in theater and cinema to the next plateau. In 2015, Welch would move back to his home state of Tennessee, but his bond with Black and Phillips never broke, and once inspiration struck, the trio united once again to bring their first feature film to life in the form of Adult Interference, a comedy about a washed-up actor, his unlikely bond with a boy in his neighborhood, and the lessons they both learn about manhood along the way. Together as co-directors, Black and Phillips have crafted a hilarious comedy that’s rounded out by sharp references, solid character work and strong performances from the ensemble cast.
Adult Interference follows Bo Treadwell (Welch), a struggling actor living with his girlfriend Talia (Kate Upton) in Los Angeles, where his only claim to fame is as a spokesperson for an insurance company. With no upcoming roles in sight, Bo returns to his Tennessee hometown of Hendersonville for his high school reunion, but when the party ends up far from his expectations, it is quick to turn into a night of heavy drinking. Bo not only ends up getting a DUI on the way home, but is also placed under house arrest for ninety days.
Forced to live with his sister Sally (Black) in her daughter’s playhouse, Bo spends his days drinking beer in the front yard, but witnesses middle-schooler Elliott (George Baron) getting bullied on his way home from school, and strikes up a conversation with him. Upon learning of Bo’s legacy as a high school athlete, Elliott visits Bo, imploring him to teach him how to play football. Bo does just that and goes the extra mile (in his mind) through teaching him inappropriate lessons on how to talk to girls and stand up for himself, while Elliott’s parents Laura and Brock (Christine Woods and Mike Vogel, respectively) look on from across the street in concern of Bo’s influence on their son. Meanwhile, Bo ignores his father’s attempts at reconnecting with him for secretive reasons.
There is a plethora of levity to go around throughout Adult Interference, as the movie’s heightened sense of humor walks the tightrope balancing movie references and sardonic jokes that poke fun at Bo’s obliviousness and self-absorption with cheeky irreverence reminiscent of comedies from the 1990s. All of them are delivered with sharp timing and stellar delivery from the entire ensemble. One of these comes in an early conversation where after learning he didn’t get a role in a movie with a famous actor, Bo asks his agent if he said Bo played college football “for, like. . .a semester”, while one place where the irreverence takes shape is in an early montage that sees Bo testing the limits of his house arrest monitor, using a lighter to roast a marshmallow, and even bathing in a nearby river.
Welch himself demonstrates impeccable comedic timing with every irreverent barb and reference Bo drops throughout the film, whether it’s threatening absolute punishment upon Elliott calling The Goonies ‘that stupid treasure movie’, or when he tries to understand the full extent of Elliott’s personality when asking Laura, “On a scale from one to Ducky, how much of a nerd are we talking about?” Meanwhile, Woods keeps up with Welch every time Laura reconnects with Bo, contrasting his deadbeat demeanor with stern reality, which also comes in handy when Elliott asks her about unflattering stories Bo’s told about her.
There’s a lot going on in the mind of Bo as a character, and the script Black and Welch have written sets him on an intriguing arc that explores him in a way that both plays him for laughs, while critiquing his extreme machismo all at once. Bo does mean well in teaching Elliott how to play football, yet in between lessons, he covers up his insecurities and inner misery over an uncertain future, both externally by flipping through his old favorite knick-knacks in a box he labeled, ‘Glory Dayz’, and internally with his massive ego and false pride over being a celebrity in his mind. He is a man-child stuck in the past who can only confront it before moving forward, while the pink walls that surround him in his princess house prison imply his need to if not get in touch with his feminine side, then to let someone in. The pressure mounts from every corner of his world as the film progresses, culminating with the timely message at the heart of Adult Interference: change must come for people like him one way or another.
And audiences will want to see Bo change for the better, because his relationship with Elliott takes turns of endearment over the course of the film, such as when he teaches the boy how to play football in a montage edited in a style reminiscent of 90s comedies, and again when the unlikely friends bond over the 90s classic Rudy, which Elliott is quick to call ‘the greatest thing I’ve ever seen’ through hilarious tears. This is also one of the several instances where Welch and Baron demonstrate great chemistry, with others taking shape every time Elliott stands up for himself when Bo’s teachings take a turn for the rough.
Adult Interference is very funny, but more often than not, there are so many jokes a minute, that it’s easy to miss one of the several callbacks to 80s movies that Bo drops, or one of the nicknames he calls Elliott during football lessons. Also, for a film that studies the two faces of Bo as a character very well, his turning point in the third act is breezed through a little too quickly to be effective in time for the film’s climax. Despite that, however, Adult Interference is a hilarious romp of a comedy worth checking out on VOD platforms everywhere, an achievement for Black and Phillips as female directors to watch, and a celebration for the cast and crewmembers to converge from Los Angeles and the city of Nashville. Audiences will laugh at the banter between Bo and Elliott, ad get swept up in the infectious energy the ensemble brings to the script’s sharp, referential dialogue. If you’re curious about any film industry happenings on the coast opposite Hollywood, don’t let life interfere with you seeing Adult Interference.