As the Oscar-nominated producer of “In The Bedroom” and “Lost In Translation,” and director of brooding HBO movie “Taking Chance,” Ross Katz has come off as a Very Serious Dude on paper. That is, until now. The director has taken a much lighter approach with his feature-length theatrical debut, “Adult Beginners.” The story follows a man whose life has hit a crossroads, forcing him to move in with this sister so he can try and get himself together. And it’s a charmer, a film with its heart in the right place, featuring comedic chemistry bursting between Nick Kroll, Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale (read our review).
Moreover, it’s always great to see a talent who can balance the serious and the funny with ease. Katz’ previous experience in drama helps “Adult Beginners” resonate on an emotional level, coming off as refreshingly deep in the way it spreads the theme of grown-up immaturity over all three of its main characters, not just Kroll’s Jake. It’s as much about the bond between two siblings and the pressure of married life, as it is about the awakening of one obnoxious self-made entrepreneur. Thanks to its cast, Katz’ direction, and the screenplay (written by Jeff Cox and Liz Flahive), “Adult Beginners” is a seriously funny and pleasantly serious ride, one that’ll have us keeping a very close eye on its director. In the meantime, however, we’re flattered to have Ross Katz participate in our 10 Movies That Changed My Life series.
We hope you enjoy, and urge you to check out “Adult Beginners” now playing in limited release and available on demand.
1. The first moviegoing film experience you can remember.
My crazy, but loveable uncle Ivan took me to see “Midnight Express” when I was 7 years old. I truly do not know what he was thinking. Looking back on it, I came to learn what an extraordinary film it is. However, at 7 years old, it was literally the most terrifying thing I had ever seen in my life. I had nightmares and was sleep walking for months after. I will never forget – nor recover from – Brad Davis biting off another man’s tongue and spitting it out! It now stands as one of my favorite movies, but I do not recommend it for 7-year-olds.
2. The best moviegoing film experience you ever had.
In 2005, I was producing “Marie Antoinette” in France. I was lucky, while there, to spend some time with Quentin Tarantino. My first job in the movie business was as a grip on “Reservoir Dogs,” believe it or not. Quentin was kind to me from day one, even as I struggled as a first-time grip. Years later, he remembered me and was always generous with me. While in Paris, he invited me to a revival house that was showing “Jackie Brown,” a movie I love. Getting to see a Tarantino film with freaking Tarantino is something I will never ever forget. And, to see it with someone so giving and so altruistic, was just the best.
3. The first movie you became obsessed with.
In 1983, I was 10 years old. Thanks entirely to my mother, I was already a crazy David Bowie fan. Was it appropriate for a 10-year-old to be singing along to the Diamond Dogs album? Hmm… you would have to ask my Mom. So, at age 12 I saw that David Bowie had a movie coming out called “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.” Bowie’s gorgeous (and severely underrated) performance took my breath away. This coupled with [Nagisa] Oshima’s stunning, precise filmmaking, [Ryuichi] Sakamoto’s stand-out score, and Tom Conti’s quietly overwhelming performance… knocked me out. I still watch this movie. It profoundly influenced me and made me want to dig deeper and see more foreign films. Ultimately, it really informed my storytelling
4. The movie that always freaks you out/makes you scared
Um… “Midnight Express.” Please see above.
5. The movie you love that no one would expect you to love.
“Love, Actually“ will get me every single time. I love that movie. I pretty much love everything about it. A perfect night for me: a double feature of “Love, Actually” and “Four Weddings And A Funeral.”
6. The movie that defined your coming-of-age/high school experience.
“Pretty In Pink” and “The Breakfast Club.” Saw both in the theater. I was super ’80s – the music, the hair, the clothes. All of it. John Hughes seemed to capture everything I was thinking and feeling, almost as if he knew me.
7. The Film That Made You Fall in Love with Cinema:
“The 400 Blows. Wow, it blew my mind at the time, and still does. I related so much to Antoine Doinel. I couldn’t believe that a movie about seemingly mundane things (like divorce and mean teachers) could be so riveting. Being a child of divorce, I think I was comforted by seeing this story told from Antoine’s POV. It was sad, beautiful, funny, and empowering for me. I’ve seen the movie so many times, it’s crazy. I find something truly comforting in it.
8. The movie that defined your childhood.
“Raiders Of The Lost Ark.” When I saw it in the theater, I made my parents take me back over and over again. After seeing ‘Raiders’ at age ten, I knew I had to be a filmmaker. I didn’t have any idea how I would get there, but it was clear to me that making movies was no longer a choice: I needed to do it.
9. The film that is your best date movie.
“Love Songs (Les Chansons d’Amour)” by Christophe Honore. So spectacularly funny, sexy, romantic, sad, dramatic — it’s all of it. I love this film and have occasionally yanked out the DVD when trying to impress on a date.
10. The movie that made you want to make a comedy.
“Groundhog Day” is, for me, a perfect movie. Not only is it laugh-out-loud funny, but it has tremendous heart. Though the movies are totally different, I would say “Groundhog Day” greatly influenced my desire to make “Adult Beginners” as a comedy that was not only funny, but had real emotion.
“Adult Beginners” is in a theatrical limited release now and is also available on iTunes and VOD.