– Summary –
Director : Jason Reitman
Year Of Release : 2011
Principal Cast : Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser, Collette Wolfe.
Approx Running Time : 120 Minutes
Synopsis: 30-something writer Mavis returns to her old hometown to rekindle a relationship with her ex-boyfriend from high school. Trouble is, he’s happily married with a new baby, and she doesn’t seem to understand that. Mavis also befriends a local handicapped man who accompanies her on this journey of self-destruction.
What we think : Well acted, well directed, painfully written adult comedy from the people who brought is Juno (a film I’m fairly ambivalent towards), Young Adult barely has enough energy within it to warrant even the barest of reviews – no matter how good the film should be, it never once resonated with me in any emotional way. Theron’s character, while certainly well acted by the talented actress, is about as thick as two planks, and frustrating to watch…. neither of which is conducive to a great night in front of the television. I hated even liking this film, because I wanted to loathe it with every fiber in my being. In the end, however, I came to appreciate it for what it was: a well made, but utterly nasty, dramatic comedy that I never once found dramatic or comedic.
I’ve never laughed so little in a film. Even the direst “comedy” can provide me with a giggle or two, perhaps even a reflexive chuckle at something my brain tells me I should be throwing things at. Young Adult, a film chosen off the shelf by my wife and agreed to by me (I’d heard good things about it, so what the hell, right?) slid into the BluRay player and started up, and thus I began to lose 90 minutes of my life enjoying Charlize Theron bitch it up in Minnesota while Patton Oswalt told us his manhood allowed him to pee sideways all at the same time. I say “enjoy” in the loosest, most liberal sense of the word. I’d hardly use the term “enjoy” to describe a film I found to hackle-raising in its awkward unfunniness and screechingly irritating pathos, but there you go. Young Adult isn’t a film you can like easily, yet it’s not a film you can just outright hate – there’s too much good stuff going on that you have to at least admire what was achieved here. Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary, a late-30’s writer of a series of young adult novels, who returns to her home town from the big city after receiving an email announcing the arrival of her ex-boyfriend’s new baby. Seeing it as a sign that he actually wants to reconnect with her, she goes back to try and win him back – never mind that he’s happily married and not even close to any infidelity. Mavis also meets former school attendee Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), who was beaten by a gang of jocks who incorrectly assumed he was gay. Matt, trying to convince Mavis that her plan to get back with Buddy (Patrick Wilson) and break him up with his wife Beth (Twilight star Elizabeth Reaser) is destined to fail, a fact that Mavis ignores without a shred of remorse. Thus begins one woman’s assault on her own dignity, and this film’s assault on our ability to overcome the inherent “WTF?” moments this film throws up.
Charlize Theron is a terrific actress. This is an established fact. Her turn in serial-killer flick Monster is testament to just how seriously she takes her craft. Young Adult, while nowhere near the caliber of story as Monster, relies heavily on Theron’s ability to play the narcissistic, ego-driven high-school princess who never grew up, Mavis Gary (such a terrible name for a character), and while Theron delivers a solid performance, it’s such an unlikeable role in a generally unlikeable film that you can’t help but give up and hate the thing. Patton Oswalt, who plays the crippled Matt – a Jimminy Cricket type character as Mavis’s conscience of sorts – delivers a role I’d not expected from him, and found him actually believable in the role. Surprise! But the script, the desolate, depressing and altogether avante-garde script, is just so annoyingly unlikable that not once did I find myself either laughing at moments I should have, or connecting emotionally with the characters. The fact that a nearly-40 year old woman behaves in such a horrible way to other people is a significant factor in not liking this film; unless you can get past the fact that had anyone actually behaved like this in real life they’d be sent off for evaluation near a padded room somewhere, for no reason other than the script says she must, you’ll probably find this film as mind-numbingly cloying as I did. Mavis is a complete bitch, a total princess seeking a last fling at her popularity height – high school – when she ruled over her classmates and can’t get past the fact that she’s now passed it altogether, but the film offers no redeeming sentiments to her at all. She’s irredeemable, she is. Theron smashes the role out of the park, and does her best to encapsulate whatever it was screenwriter Diablo Cody (who wrote Juno) was trying to get across, but the film offers no respite from the completely arbitrary obliteration of her reputation or the destruction of every relationship she is involved in. I was unable to grasp how any sane person could behave so terribly, and still think trying to become “the other woman” is a good idea, I just found the whole notion as “entertainment” repugnant. Young Adult didn’t connect with me, more’s the pity.