Making the Grades
Some people run like a constant thread through the fabric of our lives. Others are like cue balls that come along only long enough to radically rearrange things before rolling out of the picture. Carter Webb (Adam Brody) is the latter.
After getting publicly dumped in a diner by his actress/model girlfriend (Elena Anaya), Carter heads out of Los Angeles and travels to an upscale Michigan neighborhood to spend some time with his ailing and addled grandmother (Olympia Dukakis) who is convinced she is dying. She needs a caretaker and the 26-year-old soft-core porn writer needs some space to rethink his life.
There Carter is befriended by Sarah Hardwicke (Meg Ryan), a perfect looking stay-at-home mom who lives across the street. She invites him along to walk the dog. Then while strolling past the well-manicured lawns, she unburdens on Carter, divulging to him the less-than-happy details of her existence. And she isn't the only one who wants someone to confide in. After Sarah encourages her teenaged daughter, Lucy (Kristen Stewart), to invite Carter out for a movie, the moody teen is equally quick to reveal her secrets, including her smoking habit.
Surrounded by a trio of troubled women, Carter is the compassionate soul who buoys up the ladies by offering encouragemen, and physical affection to both Sarah and Lucy. However, the women impact him as well. Honoring his role as confidence keeper, he steps in where he can, even taking a punch from Lucy's angry ex-boyfriend at a high school house party. Additionally, the aspiring author makes some career changes, trying his hand at writing less sensual material after his grandmother inquires about his current career.
Still, this little slice-of-life film isn't without its concerns for younger audiences. While Lucy's mom asks her to quit smoking, Carter occasionally lights up a cigarette and knowingly shares one with the teen. Soon after his arrival, the young man's grandmother overhears a phone conversation in which Carter and his boss discuss the erotic activities happening on a porn film set. Later a montage of past memories briefly shows a sexual encounter between the screenplay writer and his former girlfriend. Coarse slang and a strong sexual expletive are also used along with the seemingly casual taking of over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
Face-to-face with the sometimes-harsh realities of life, Carter discovers his isn't the only heartbreak on the street. His best-laid escape plan turns into a learning opportunity for the young man, and a chance to help others. Although these neighborly interactions offer insightful and often truthful portrayals into relationships, parents will still need to decide if Carter and his women are too mature for family viewing.