Never heard of an A.C.O.D.? Well, “they’re everywhere,” says Adam Scott.
The Parks and Recreation lead stars in the new indie comedy A.C.O.D., an acronym that describes what is an ever-increasing population of people in the United States: Adult Children of Divorce. The idea behind the “disorder” and, by extension, the film, is that countless pages have been written about the effects of divorce on children. But as Generation Xers, “the divorce generation,” transition into adulthood, a whole population of possibly, maybe, definitely, most likely screwed up people are finding their lots in life woefully under-examined.
“The whole idea is something that hadn’t really been trampled upon culturally, especially in a comedy—a divorce comedy,” Scott says.
Yes, though A.C.O.D. digs into the very painful echoes a tumultuous divorce can have on a kid decades later, it is a comedy—a tone that becomes all the more obvious when the film’s supporting cast is listed. Catherine O’Hara and Richard Jenkins play the ceaselessly battling divorced parents of Scott’s character, Carter, a seemingly well-adjusted restaurant owner with a steady girlfriend of his own (Elizabeth Winstead). (On his 9th birthday, little Carter’s wish as he blows out his candles—and his parents hurl expletives at each other in the background—is “stop the madness.”)
Amy Poehler plays Jenkins’s character’s third wife, and Carter’s adversary. Jane Lynch plays a psychologist who used Carter as one of the subjects of her book. When Carter’s younger brother (Clark Duke) gets engaged and decides he’d like to accomplish the impossible task of reuniting his parents at the wedding, Carter goes into damage-control mode trying to make it happen without either party killing each other—“You’ve turned a nine-year marriage into a 100-year war!” he cries at them.
When the reunion turns into a rekindling of his parents’ relationship, Carter’s meticulously built, seemingly stable house of cards begins to crumble, and Lynch, seeing the opportunity for another book on, yes, A.C.O.D.s, is there to giddily analyze the rubble.
“This is a character who starts out as the adult in the family, who has the perfect job, the perfect girlfriend, and complete control over everyone in his life,” Scott says. “And then over the course of this movie, he’s unraveling and sort of turns into a kid again.”
Whether or not you’re an A.C.O.D., there’s something in the film for everyone to relate to. After all, who isn’t haunted by the actions of their parents—whether or not they stayed together—long into adulthood?
Scott has his own unique perspective on the matter. He’s a child of divorce of himself, though his parents’ breakup and subsequent relationship hardly rivaled the huffing and puffing of O’Hara and Jenkins’ characters. “It was a very peaceful, amicable, lovely divorce, where my siblings and I had a great, fun, healthy childhood,” he says. But he still counts himself as an A.C.O.D. “It affected me. It affects everyone.”
In his own life, he’s happily married with two children, and with a family life that he at least hopes is lightyears away from that of Carter and his bickering parents: “Thankfully, I do not relate to either of those characters in this movie… they are insane.” He is also one of half of the most blissful depiction of marriage on TV, the one between Ben Wyatt and Leslie Knope (Poehler) on Parks and Recreation.
A total 180 from the hurricane of hatred depicted by the married couples in A.C.O.D., Ben and Leslie’s sheer happiness on Parks and Rec would be nauseating if it weren’t portrayed so charmingly by Scott and Poehler. The overwhelming amount of affection Poehler’s Leslie has for Scott’s Ben has even had unlikely consequences, like turning the Scott’s nerdy-charming character into a sex symbol for the show’s fans on a level akin to Patrick Dempsey’s more conventionally dapper McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy.
“It has so much to do with Amy and her reaction to Ben,” he says, attempting to suss out the surprising turn of events. “Amy’s so good at finding unique new ways of playing being absolutely crazy about someone.” Plus, there’s the adorkable geekiness the show has steadily given his character. “First it was Star Wars and then Game of Thrones and the Batman treat yo’ self episode. The writers really hit upon a funny thing by finding new nerdy things for Ben to get into.”
In addition to starring in A.C.O.D. and charming Parks and Rec fans each week on the NBC sitcom, Scott will next star in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which is pegged to be a major awards-season player. With a lead role in a new film, a secure gig on a long-running sitcom, and a buzzy part in a prestige Oscar flick, Scott appears to be one Adult Child of Divorce who seems to have it all figured out.