December 17, 2011
Review - " Young Adult " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Jason Reitman
Starring: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth
Reaser, Collette Wolfe, Mary Beth Hurt
Jason Reitman's previous efforts (Thank You for Smoking, Juno, Up in
the Air) each chronicled an unique, witty, and potentially poignant
character in the modern world. Crossing the spectrum from endearing
(Juno), to potentially villainous with redeemable potential (Thank You
for Smoking), Reitman's explorations into loneliness, concepts of
adulthood, and social responsibility have been fascinating, frustrating,
and ultimately brilliant.
With Young Adult, Reitman pushes the audience's threshold even
further, creating a protagonist that is utterly unlikable. In fact, there
may be no redeemable qualities of any value in Mavis Gary, played to
perfection by Charlize Theron. Mavis is a complete mess, and as with
most Reitman films, brings the audience along for the climax of
emotion that is both satisfying and excruciating to watch on-screen.
The title could refer to the fact that Mavis is a ghost writer of young
adult novels or that she is a 37 year old, divorced, alcoholic who thinks
she is still the prom queen. She was one of the mean girls in high
school and now she is just a mean adult who comes back to her
hometown to get her prom king back even if he is happily married and
just became a father.
Charlize Theron, as Mavis, doesn't want or need the love/attention of
her parents, friends, old schoolmates because she has her dog, her
booze and just knows she will get her old boyfriend, Buddy, played by Patrick Wilson, back as soon as he sees her.
Mavis is not a nice person nor does she try to be and Theron doesn't shy away from the audience not liking her even to the
point when it is explained, to a certain point, why she might be the way she is that she won't get the sympathy she is crying
Mavis reaches out to Matt, played by Patton Oswalt, who plays the star's best gay friend but he isn't gay even though he was
beaten up by school jocks, and crippled for life, who thought he was. Matt joins Mavis on binges and he sees her as the girl
he worshipped from afar in school and now seems to be her equal and might stand a chance. Oswalt may be best known for
his stand-up comedy and his voice work in "Ratatouille," but he's excellent here in a more dramatic role, as he was in the
little-seen indie "Big Fan". He's the heart of the film, the anchor, the voice of reason, but there's nothing smug or
self-righteous about him. Matt is as stunted as Mavis is, which Oswalt conveys in subtle, heartbreaking ways that always ring
true. You come to care about his character so much, you'd like to see more of a resolution for him than "Young Adult"
provides - perhaps not a happy ending, which is fine, but at least another chapter.
Jason Reitman, the director, and Diablo Cody, the writer, make two mistakes, one that we know is coming and the other that
can be interrupted in different ways which just stops the movie from being what it should/could have been.
Theron is outstanding and Oswalt is her match in the acting department. The rest of the supporting cast doesn't really have
a chance to stand out though Elizabeth Reaser as Wilson's wife, Jill Eikenberry and Richard Bekins as Mavis's parents are
winning. Patrick Wilson
doesn't really have much to do
and too dumb to be believable.
It is always good to watch an
excellent actress in a role that
is worthy of her though the
movie is not quite as first class.
Gorgeous but damaged,
conceited yet self-loathing,
Charlize Theron dares you to
like her in Young Adult - and
the movie itself dares you to
stick with an anti-heroine who
makes no apologies for her
deplorable behaviour. We don't
need characters to burst into
the daylight of understanding
at the end of movies for films to
feel satisfying, but Cody ends
Young Adult in such a bleak
place, it feels like a misplaced
point of pride.