Jena Malone, for my money, rarely gets the credit that she deserves. The actress has quite the resume at this point, too, which makes it even more of a shame. A daring and exciting actress, work like Contact, The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys, Donnie Darko, For Love of the Game, The Go-Getter, Into the Wild, Life as a House, The Neon Demon, Pride & Prejudice, and Saved!, plus multiple installments of The Hunger Games sequels, whatever she does is intriguing. So, a new film of hers is worth playing attention to. This week, we have a new one in Adopting Audrey. As a bonus, Adopting Audrey is a starring vehicle for her, to boot, which helps give it the life it needs.
Adopting Audrey has Malone in fine form, even though the film itself is a bit on the shapeless side. It’s a showcase piece for her, letting her reactions and knowing gaze often rule the day. It doesn’t ask a ton of her, but it’s a role that leans into her strengths. In doing so, the movie sets itself up for success, even if it is a fairly mild form of success, at the end of the day.
Audrey (Malone) is at a crossroads. A likable but difficult person, someone a bit lost in transition, she’s just been let go from her seventh job in two years. Moreover, she’s estranged from her family and without close friends. A mix of loneliness and restlessness has her unsure of what’s next. Then, when watching YouTube one night, she discovers the world of adult adoption. With nothing to lose, Audrey opts to try it out for herself, with initially poor results. Then, when Sunny (Emily Kuroda) contacts her, she finds an adoptive family with some promise. Interestingly, when it turns out to be one whose dysfunction mirrors her own, it actually intrigues her even more.
Settling in and popping over to the see the family on almost a daily basis, she begins to grow on the curmudgeonly patriarch, Otto (Robert Hunger-Bühler). As much as she’s sweet and helpful, he’s a grouchy coot, though he also seems to have taken a liking to her. Will this be the family Audrey has yearned for? Can she break through with Otto? Well, this is an independent character study, so the results likely won’t surprise you, but observing it in action has its charms.
Jena Malone remains one of the more underrated actresses out there. Here, her eyes tell so much, elevating a role that’s intriguing but potentially a bit on the thin side. Still, she’s game to give it extra life, making Audrey memorable. Emily Kuroda, however, remains frustratingly in the background. As for Robert Hunger-Bühler, he’s grating and a bit one-note for most of the film, but gets to show some other, more interesting, sides by the end. Supporting players include Brooke Bloom, Lawrence Inglee, and Will Rogers here, though again, Malone is the star of the show.
Filmmaker M. Cahill is rightly focused on Malone, since she’s the highlight of Adopting Audrey. His writing and direction does seem to oddly be missing a fully developed subplot, but the more we’re observing Audrey’s life, the firmer ground we’re on. It’s her adoptive family that ends up coming in a bit short. Still, Cahill knows that Malone is his meal ticket here, as it were.
Adopting Audrey is mostly about observing Jena Malone in action. She’s good enough to sell this little indie, though there are points where you wish the flick was on her level. Still, it’s more than enough to warrant a recommendation. Especially if you like Malone, you’re in for a little treat watching her do her thing, as always.