Amy (Emma Roberts) has one simple, levelheaded goal in life: to become a world famous poet before she's out of her early twenties. As a college student who still lives with her parents, Amy tries to see this dream come to fruition by sending her poems to every publisher she possibly can at her parents' expense. But it eventually becomes too much and Amy's parents cut her off financially and she decides to plunge right into the dreaded job search. Along her drudgingly morbid journey into adulthood, Amy stumbles onto an adult video store called Adult World currently looking for help and takes the job even though it's against her ego's desires. At the same time, she forces her services upon her poetic hero Rat Billings (John Cusack) who is currently drowning in his own forebodingly spiteful outlook on life.
The opening to "Adult World" is enough to let you know what you're in for as you witness Amy attempt to commit suicide by sticking her head in the oven and putting a plastic bag over her head. After getting a job at Adult World, Amy's boss is a very down to earth guy named Alex (Evan Peters) who may work at an adult video store, but has no issue with that whatsoever and he doesn't let that affect his other interests. It's through Alex and Adult World that Amy meets a drag queen named Rubia (Armando Riesco) and even though they get off on the wrong foot they eventually become really good friends.
Unfortunately Amy is blinded by selfishness and obsessed with a pessimistic hack. Amy makes a series of poor decisions to try and follow her dream of becoming a poet. She makes childish mistakes, but then becomes upset when someone calls her a child. She's irritating, has a nerve-grating voice, is naive, and extremely pompous as she seems to look down on everyone around her. Alex at least seems normal even though he works in what some would consider an uncomfortable environment, but the most interesting character is Rubia. The character really doesn't do much other than smoke pot, ride a stolen bicycle, and give other women makeovers, but Rubia never pretends to be anything that she isn't. Amy asks Rubia in one scene if she has ever felt invisible. Rubia's face distorts as she says, "Not really." It's as if Rubia has all the attention she's ever wanted while Amy continues to search for the big break she's always craved.
If you can persevere through Amy's temper tantrums and John Cusack acting like he has no interest in being in "Adult World," then there actually is something really positive and inspirational lying under layers within the film. Like "Inside Llewyn Davis," "Adult World" seems to speak to you if you've ever felt like a struggling artist. Along the way, Amy learns that it's not just about making a name for yourself, getting rich, or becoming famous. You can't make a carbon copy of the path your idol took or follow in anyone else's footsteps. Sometimes you have to take your own path and create your art just for you.
"Adult World" has this really exceptional message wrapped up in this unbelievably obnoxious package that almost makes the entire experience unbearable. It's like a really disgusting bag of garbage filled with rotting produce and decomposing meats; the type of garbage that creates that dirty, brown trash juice you always find bleeding out of dumpsters. Yet in the middle of that bag is something worthwhile like a forgotten treasure map or one of your favorite comic books magically still in mint condition. "Adult World" may have meaning, but you have to trudge through waist deep piles of unfiltered, prepubescent, overdramatic whimpering just to get to it.