Young Adult is the second film that Director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody teamed up for. Since the first was the Best Picture nominee Juno (2007), expectations were quite high for this one. Because of that this film ended up with mixed reactions from people. Some loved it, some hated it, and some felt it was a good movie, but not as good as their other work. I fall into the last group.
I actually think Reitman’s two best films are the ones where he has adapted the source material himself. Those are Thank You for Smoking and Up in the Air. While I also liked Juno, I would place it third after those two films. Young Adult would come fourth for me.
The movie stars Charlize Theron as Mavis Gary, a thirty-something writer of novels in the Young Adult genre. This is a perfect job for her because she has essentially never grown up. She is still the self-absorbed, petulant, “bitch” that everyone felt she was in high school. Her character is the reason some people hated this film. She’s not supposed to be likable and she isn’t. It’s just a question of whether some people can still laugh at her actions in an “I’m glad I don’t have to deal with her” way.
She is suffering from writer’s block, and is also facing a sort of “growing up” crisis because the series she writes for is coming to an end. She will have to find something else to write about. One day she receives a notice that her high school boyfriend Buddy and his wife have had a baby. She decides this is a sign and she packs up laptop, junk food, dog, and an old mix tape Buddy gave her 20 years ago, and drives back to her hometown. In the best tradition of one of her novels she’s decided the two of them are meant to be together and these things like a wife and child are just minor obstacles to their eventual happiness.
Once back in town she quickly finds Buddy (Watchmen’s Patrick Wilson) and sets up a lunch for the next day. That evening she goes to a bar and meets a high school classmate named Matt. He is played by Patton Oswalt. While Mavis was the queen bee back then, Matt was one of the unpopular kids. Like most guys, he wanted to have sex with Mavis, but knew that he had no chance. Mavis doesn’t remember him at all, of course, because he wasn’t important. It’s not until he tells her he was the kid a bunch of jocks permanently injured one night because they thought he was gay that she finally realizes who he was.
Oswalt gives a great performance and it’s actually his role in this film that I liked the best. Mavis latches onto his character of Matt as a sort of confidant and she tells him everything she is planning. He tells her she’s nuts, but she doesn’t listen. You can also tell that part of him probably wants to see Mavis fall flat on her face, and that he’s actually more worried about the impact on Buddy.
Buddy and his wife Beth (Twilight’s Elizabeth Reaser) invite Mavis to their home and as you might expect, things don’t go well. By the way, having a member of the Twilight cast in a film about a female author of Young Adult fiction? I don’t think that was a coincidence.
Mavis commiserates with Matt. She finds out he actually has a still in his garage and they end up drinking there, too. Matt’s sister Sandra (Collette Wolfe) also lives there and we can quickly tell that she has had just as big a crush on Mavis as her brother Matt did. Mavis appears to realize this, but considers it completely unimportant. The two do have a key scene toward the end of the film, though. It is this scene that ruined the movie for some people, but I liked it. I appreciated the fact that it wasn’t the standard, clichéd scene that has been in so many films when the character finally comes to assess their life and not like what they see.
If you’ve liked Reitman’s and Cody’s other films, then you should definitely see this one. If you can’t laugh at the outrageous actions of an unlikable character, then you should probably skip this film. For everyone else, I recommend you give this a try.
Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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I'm glad you didn't hate it. I loved it and I think it's Theron's 3rd best performance, right after Monster and North Country. "It’s just a question of whether some people can still laugh at her actions in an “I’m glad I don’t have to deal with her” way.", well I can't say I agree here - I don't think the film was meant to be funny, it's a fantastic character study of a broken woman, disguised as the twist for usual comedy where the protagonist is likable and somehow 'entitled' to be with the love of her life.ReplyDelete
While there are certainly dramatic elements in it, the movie was most definitely intended to be a dark comedy. It is very much in the vein of Christina Ricci's 1998 film The Opposite of Sex.Delete
I really liked it, mainly because it was more of a character development story, although in the end Mavis didn't actually change that much! Charlize Theron was amazing and I was surprised by Patton Oswalt, he was very good! My favorite scene has to be the one after the confrontation between Beth and Mavis at the party, because she goes to see Matt and finally shows us a little bit of humanity and need- it was quite touching!ReplyDelete
I agree with pretty much everything you wrote.Delete
My rating would be a little higher, I think Young Adult is underrated, had some great dialogue, and yes she is interesting enough to watch from a distance, but I don't think I'd want to meet Mavis for real, though ( :ReplyDelete
I think most people that liked watching her antics in this movie would not want to actually have to deal with her themselves.Delete