Adventures in Success delivers some light laughs, but does little else of note with its outlandish premise.
Adventures in Success follows a would-be cult, led by their charismatic messiah, Peggy (Lexie Mountain), as they try to find new members and keep the lights on in their crumbling home in the Catskills. The cause that unites Peggy’s band of misfits is a controversial one, but unconventional in cult terms — a sincere belief in the world-healing power of the female orgasm. Their quest puts them at odds with the local community, some of whom adopt a “live and let live” philosophy, though many do indeed decry the commune as a cult of hippie perverts. Hope seems to be just over the horizon when a chance invitation to exhibit their beliefs at a health expo presents itself, an opportunity that might solve their financial problems for good and finally convince the world of the power of female pleasure — as noble a goal as they come.
But while this certainly offers a provocative enough setup, virtually the only strength to be found in Adventures in Success is its easy, lightly ribald sense of humor. The cast fully commit to a unanimously earnest tone that buys some genuine laughs throughout, and director Jay Buim develops and enunciates the mundanity of this group’s existence, destroying anything erotic about their mission and replacing it with the everyday squabbles of communal living. The film ambles through the group’s day-to-day lives, mining the inherent ridiculousness of the premise and its cast’s comedic talents for what are ultimately forgettable laughs. But despite the cast’s best efforts to sell the material, Adventures in Success never quite commits to its mockumentary shape one way or the other, with the format only ever making an appearance when the film’s plot needs to be dragged back onto a recognizable path. Buim meanders, perhaps for the sake of naturalism, giving the whole film an aimlessness that quickly becomes tedious and which feels more amateurish than confident, never really allowing any of the cast or various plotlines a chance to flourish. Instead, Buim builds a comedy that, despite its firmness of tone, doesn’t seem to know what to do or say beyond the superficialities of its premise. Adventures in Success merely flounders, even given its brief 90-minute runtime, and is ultimately about as successful as its own unfortunate characters.
Published as part of Before We Vanish — March 2022.