Young Adult – Review


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.


Insidious – Review

Insidious (2010) 

Directed by James Wan. Starring Patrick WilsonRose ByrneTy Simpkins

I’m going to be quite upfront in reviewing this film: the plot is preposterous, it has virtually no original ideas, it is a derivative from all sorts of films we’ve seen before, the end is ludicrous, and yet it scared the living daylight out of me, like very few films have managed to do in the last few years. Just for this reason I would recommend it to every horror/thriller fan out there. It is one of the most skilfully made horror I’ve seen in quite a while.

Director James Wan certainly knows how to create the most tense atmosphere out of a simple scene where a person is walking along a corridor. His mastery in the use of sound, in the use of music (or better, when to use music and when silence is a lot more powerful), the positioning of the camera is to be admired.

Wan clearly knows that the anticipation to an event could be a lot more powerful than the event itself. He knows that the fear of seeing the devil can be a lot scarier than the moment when the devil actually reveals himself.

There are some incredibly tense sequences (a particularly creepy one involving a baby monitor) throughout the whole first part of the film. There’s a constant sense of dread as the camera moves around the empty rooms of the house and when the scares come, they really make you jump, however expected some of them might be.

A lot of time is spent in building some believable characters and making the audience care about them (credits due to both Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne too of course) and it’s good to see the “usual sceptic” changing his mind and actually believing the supernatural.

The film looses a little bit of its edge and its eerie atmosphere once the supernatural get officially introduced, and yet even the reveal of the Devil (which is usually quite a let-down in any other horror films like this one) still manages to be incredibly unsettling. Since the script is a bit obvious and a photocopy of films like Poltergeist (including the Ghostbusters team and the not-so-reveal of the fact that it’s not a haunted house, but a possessed child), and of course the Exorcist, I can only deduce that it’s the direction of Insidious that really makes it work.

Of course, once the film is over and the lights are on, it’ll take you 2 seconds to realize that it was all pretty silly and it’s going to be a lot easier to dismiss it as junk (really scary horror films should really stay with you long after they finish), but while you’re in it I’m sure you’ll be as frighten as a little boy who hears a suspicious noise coming out of his closet at night…


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