Sundance review: 'A.C.O.D.'

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Three stars

Horrific divorce hardly seems the stuff of comedy, but — with the help of a stellar cast — director Stu Zicherman pulls it off in "A.C.O.D."

The title of the film, which premiered Wednesday at the Sundance Film Festival, is an achronym for Adult Children Of Divorce. And Carter (Adam Scott, "Parks and Recreation") is the child of a particularly horrible divorce. The kind nightmares are made of.

It's been decades since his parents, Hugh (Richard Jenkins) and Melissa (Catherine O'Hara), broke up, but time has not cooled their white-hot hatred for each other.

"If I ever see that woman, I'll kick her in the balls," Hugh says.

"Please tell me you are not your father's son," Melissa tells Carter.

Carter has tried to play peacekeeper for years. And, it turns out, the woman (Jane Lynch) he talked to when he was a kid was not a therapist - she was writing a book about children of divorce. And, to his horror, he learns he played a prominent part in the bestseller.

Tthe impending marriage of Carter's younger brother, Trey (Clark Duke), prompts Carter to tell his parents they have to at least be able to both attend the wedding. And, in doing so, he sets off a chain of events that create massive complications.

Zicherman and Ben Carlin's script is funny, engaging and heartfelt. Scott is a star, carrying the film with his charm.

And the cast is nothing short of amazing. Scott's "Parks and Recreation" co-star, Amy Poehler, plays his awful stepmother - Hugh's third wife. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays his girlfriend. Ken Howard plays his stepfather. Jessica Alba plays another child of divorce who was profiled in that book.

And "A.C.O.D." turns divorce into pathos and laughter - at the same time.

— Scott D. Pierce