Young Adult (2011)
Young Adult is an another hit from writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman.
In Young Adult, Charlize Theron stars as Mavis Gary, a ghost writer for a young-adult vampire series. Mavis spends her days wallowing in drinking as well as sleeping all day in bed, or on her messy floors. On a deadline to finish the last book in the series, Mavis’ publisher calls her to check on her status. Mavis avoids his calls, knowing that she is not even close to be finished. One day she receives an email for her ex-boyfriend’s wife—Beth Slade—informing her that a party will be held on Saturday to celebrate the birth of her and Buddy’s baby. Mavis discovers, by looking at the baby picture in the email, that she is still hung up on her ex-boyfriend Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). Therefore, she quickly packs her bags, leaves Minneapolis, and returns to her hometown of Mercury, Minnesota.
At a bar, Mavis encounters Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), an old high school classmate, who was brutally beaten by a group of jocks who wrongfully assumed that he was gay. Mavis initially blows him off, but strikes up a conversation with him when they both start drinking. Mavis lets her guard down after a few drinks and tells Matt the reason why she is back in Mercury: To get back together with Buddy Slade and save him from his mundane life. Matt warns her that it is morally wrong for her to try to break up a marriage, but with no success.
Mavis begins a huge makeover, accentuating her beauty with facials and mani-pedis. With Buddy in her crosshairs, she meets up with him, hoping for the married man to drop everything and confess his love for her.
Will Mavis get what she wants or will her goal of stealing away Buddy cause substantial problems for her and the people involved?
Young Adult reunites writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman after they both collaborated on the surprise indie hit, Juno (2007). Reitman and Cody received critical praise and awards for Juno, with Cody winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. After the surprise hit that launched the acting career of Juno’s Ellen Page, film fans wondered what Cody and Reitman would do next. They also pondered if the two could top themselves with this new film.
Does Cody and Reitman provide a rewarding experience this time around? The answer is fortunately, yes. The writing and directing duo craft an original, thought-provoking film—buoyed by strong performances from the cast.
Performance-wise, all the actors in Young Adult deliver strong performances. Charlize Theron was perfectly cast as Mavis Gary. Theron brings strong acting chops as well as beauty to the character of Mavis. Oswalt, who portrays Matt, provides the most nuanced performance of the film. Where Mavis is constantly in a deranged mental state, Matt is revealed to have charm, wit, intelligence, and hidden pain, behind his laid-back persona of cool geekiness. With Oswalt in the role, he gives Matt more depth than any other actor could. Patrick Wilson, as Buddy Slade, is a great addition to the cast. Compared to the other actors, Wilson’s performance is an oversight. Wilson portrays Buddy as a cool, collected man, who exudes cool and charm everywhere he goes. Through his performance, viewers will be perplexed by Buddy’s intentions with Mavis, as the two spend a lot of time throughout the film. Elizabeth Reaser, as Beth Slade, has the least amount of screen time, but does well with what she’s given.
Script-wise, Cody crafts a well-written screenplay, subverting viewer’s expectations as the film rolls along. Early on, Cody juxtaposes Mavis and Matt to encourage viewers to envision how Mavis (“The Prom Queen”) and Matt (“The Nerd”) appeared in high school. However, as the film progresses, more similarities between Mavis and Matt appear, suggesting that people who came from different social circles in high school can relate to each other later in life. As a result, Cody successfully creates an entertaining dynamic between Mavis and Matt. The conversations between the two are most entertaining set pieces in the film.
On the negative side, Cody only creates a one-note outline of Mavis. Early in the film, Mavis is revealed to be a boozy writer with depression, but the complexity to Mavis stops there. By relying on clichés to characterize Mavis, Cody inadvertently makes characters like Matt and Buddy more well-realized than her. As a character, she is still entertaining to watch, but her interactions with the other characters leave her appearing hollow. That said, Charlize Theron makes up for the lack of character development, giving viewers glimpses of the pain and insanity lurking behind Mavis’ sad eyes. Moreover, Reitman successfully interprets Cody’s script and supplies Mavis with some depth. From adding subtle objects (wine, clothes on the floor) into the scenes, he imbues a level of characterization to Mavis for her character to work, thematically speaking.
Despite a few script problems, Young Adult is a thought-provoking dramedy with memorable performances from Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, and Patrick Wilson.
Rating: 4 out of 5
- First Image: Roger Ebert
- Second Image: Collider
- Third Image: Collider
- Fourth Image: Booze Movies
- Fifth Image: Tadpole Audio