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'Young Adult' Starring Charlize Theron

A movie directed by Jason Reitman

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A compelling and uncompromising character study of life on the edge...of the couch.

  • Apr 2, 2012
Rating:
+4
***1/2 out of ****

Mavis (Charlize Theron) has hit rock bottom. Once a writer of a popular series of young adult novels - and currently working on the final chapter reluctantly and at a ridiculously slow pace - she now retires to her apartment in Minneapolis; unhappy, unsatisfied, and unmarried. She gets calls from her publisher throughout the day, meets with the few friends that she has, and otherwise just lies around the house all day. She starts the morning by chugging a bottle of coke and proceeds by watching reality television for the remainder of daylight. Mavis is a sad, sad human being. She's also shallow, intolerant, and manipulative. The David Bowie song "Queen Bitch" would describe her quite nicely (it's actually featured in the film's trailer).

One day, an email proves enough to provoke Mavis into springing back into action. Apparently, her old high school boyfriend Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), who has been married for a few years now, has just welcomed a newborn baby boy into his - and the wife's - life. Suddenly, Mavis's mind is overrun by romantic delusions of how she and Buddy were meant to be together - forever - from the start, and how he's apparently "unhappy" and in need of saving from the treacherous life that she believes will come from having to father a young child. Also, she'd just like to see him again; it's been some time. On that note, she decides to make a trip back to her hometown of Mercury, Minnesota; a place that she openly detests, but embraced at least somewhat when she just was just a little bit younger.

The first person that Mavis meets when she returns to town is not Buddy; but in fact a guy named Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), who had the locker next to the heroine when they were both in high school, but went unnoticed all those wasted years. Over a few drinks at a local bar, they discuss their pasts; Mavis recalls an incident that put Matt on crutches for life (some jocks, thinking he was gay, busted his legs and his penis), and he recalls her exploits as a pretty and popular girl. They seem to connect, albeit distantly. If anything, they both share an affinity for alcohol. That might be the one reason why they hang out so much over the course of the 90-minute film in the first place.

Matt knows that Buddy is indeed happy with the life that he's made for himself now, but Mavis refuses to listen. She meets with the old flame a few times and tries to make a connection, although he's clearly not the kind of man to cheat on his wife with Mavis. She makes advances; he discreetly rejects them. She decides that it might be best to take it slow, and give him some time; he has time, but not love for his former girlfriend. Quite frankly, he seems a little disturbed by Mavis's behavior; although she could care less. After all; she is a queen bitch, and queen bitches are almost instinctively apathetic when it comes to the emotions and feelings of those who surround them.

You know, Theron hasn't given a performance this intoxicating since her breakthrough role in 2003's "Monster". She's been in a few films that followed that one, sure, but it takes a really good director (and a really good script) to channel her celebrity persona into a believably and very human character. In this case, the director is Jason Reitman; and the author of the script is Diablo Cody. The two worked together on "Juno", which Cody followed up with her screenplay for the Megan Fox horror flick "Jennifer's Body", which had its detractors wondering if the previous script was just a one trick pony kind of thing. I believe that "Young Adult" confirms my suspicions that Cody is simply a gifted writer - and while her approaches to material like this may seem unusual and unconventional at first, the dialogue and the characters show a whole lot about human understanding. Long story short, she gives Theron a lot of material to work with; turning the actress's prolific beauty into an element for her doomed, depressed, troubled heroine. The film works as a spectacular character study, among other things; Buddy and Matt are both friendly and down-to-earth men, already having grown up; while Mavis is a mean-spirited and constantly fibbing alcoholic drowning in past successes. I suppose the title comes from her refusal to grow up and accept life's challenges.

"Young Adult" is as slow as the mornings of Mavis, as deadpan as her pathetic lifestyle, and as polarizing as her general attitude towards humanity. Aside from being a funny, intelligent, insightful portrait of an artist trapped in a horrible black hole of liquor and self-indulgence; the film is also very sad, and almost tragic. Yes, like a lot of last year's best films, it isn't exactly designed to make you feel good - even though it's almost sure to make you laugh a few times - but it provides a whole lot more social commentary than most films have to offer. Conceiving the film was a risky move; it could have been a terrible story, or it could have been, well, this. My guess is that you'll either love or hate "Young Adult"; although I think it depends on how long you decide to stop and meditate on the script and the experience as a whole. This is the kind of movie that leaves a weird taste in your mouth; and you'll always want to put your finger on just what that odd taste is. You might never really find out for sure; but then again, that's why wonderful films like this one stand out amongst the crowd.

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May 01, 2012
Good review!
 
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More Young Adult reviews
review by . December 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Review: 'Young Adult' 'Two Jews On Film' Applaud Charlize Theron's Wonderful Performance (video)
      By Joan Alperin-Schwartz      Mavis Gary, (Charlize Theron) 37, has a very pretty face and very pretty hair...except for the bald spot on the back of her head...Seems Mavis has a nasty little habit of pulling out her hair, when ever the mood strikes her.      She also has a highrise apartment overlooking the Minneapolis skyline and an adorable, Pomerian (are there any other kind) named, Dolce.   …
review by . December 10, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) makes a living ghostwriting novels geared towards the tween crowd. They call this Young Adult Fiction – YA in publisher’s lingo. The books are part of a series created by another author. They were at one time incredibly popular. Now, the series has been cancelled. The book she’s currently writing will be the final installment. Although she gets by financially, she does not live the glamorous life of …
review by . December 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Maturity gets ugly
YOUNG ADULT Written by Diablo Cody Directed by Jason Reitman Starring Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt and Patrick Wilson   Buddy Slade: Mavis, I’m a married man. Mavis Gary: I know. We can beat this thing together.   Mavis Gary (the always stunning, Charlize Theron) wakes up, it would seem, most days face down in her pillow, still wearing her makeup and heels from the previous night of debauchery. When she comes to, she immediately reaches for the nearest 2L bottle of Diet …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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Director: Jason Reitman
Screen Writer: Diablo Cody

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