Young Adult – Review
November 14, 2011 5 Comments
Directed by Jason Reitman. Written by Diablo Cody. Starring Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt.
After the massive success of Juno, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody team up again, this time focusing their attention, not on a pregnant teenager (Juno) or a middle-aged lonely traveller (up in the Air), but on one the most dislikeable character you can think of.
Charlize Theron basically plays a narcissistic bitch, Mavis Gary, who heads back to her small hometown with the only intention to reclaim the heart of her high school flame (Patrick Wilson) despite the fact that he’s now happily married with a newly born baby.
Of course movie history is full of great awful lead characters (think of Goodfellas, just to mention one). A good story doesn’t necessarily has to have somebody you like to be appreciated, and you don’t really need to identify with a lead character to enjoy a movie… However, be aware it may end up testing your patience unless it’s all exceptionally grabby… and that’s exactly what happened to me watching this film. Charlize might be one of the most stunningly beautiful actress of our time, but her character Mavis is really not a nice person at all…
Diablo Cody said she’s based the character on herself… a bold statement which makes me like her less and less: let’s just hope she was exaggerating… Mavis is selfish, obnoxious, irritating, insensitive, and basically just not very good with people: eventually she ends up hurting not just her friends, but her family… and even her dog, but most importantly herself.
The film is intentionally uncomfortable, unconventional and quite low-key, but however brave is the attempt from both the screenplay and the direction to avoid any sugary redemption story (something which has been much criticised in the previous “Up in the Air” for example), and a typical Hollywood construction, the film is in the end rather inconclusive.
We never really get a grip on Mavis. And when we finally do, since we never really liked her that much, we just do not feel enough empathy or pain or sorrow or even curiosity for what she did or what she’s going to do. In other words, we don’t care (or at least I didn’t). Eventually all we are left it is just a good performance by Charlize Theron, but then again, after her amazing turn in Monster in 2003, she’s got nothing more to prove to me.
Once again she didn’t settle for an easy part and she certainly managed to give enough depth to a character which otherwise would have been a bit of a caricature, but despite all that, “Young Adult” never really took off for me.
It is on the whole a fairly predictable film which moves a very constant pace towards a pretty obvious (though masked as unconventional) conclusion.
In the end it all feels rather pointless. Of course, you may argue that such is real life: journeys of discoveries and redemption are true only in Hollywood movies and this wants to be different. Well, it certainly succeeds in that: it is different. This isn’t the feel-good movie that “Juno” was (and I’m fine with that), nor it is as quirky, fresh and surprising as “Up in the Air” was. It is probably a much more mature effort and a lot braver, but all that doesn’t necessarily make it a great film. In the end there was just to little in it.
I’m happy I saw it, but I don’t think I will want to watch it again and I’m sure once the awards buzz fades out the film will actually disappear with it.