Everyone will come to that point in their lives when they will look back on a fond period of time and wonder how different their lives would be if they had chosen a different path. Most people come to this nostalgic place in life and do nothing but look back briefly, then realize that the life they have is better than anything they could have ever dreamed it could be when they were younger. But not young adult fiction author Mavis Gary.
Mavis (Charlize Theron) ghost writes for a young adult novel series that is rapidly waning in popularity. She has every possible material possession she could want: high rise apartment in downtown Minneapolis; adorable Mini Cooper; a cute little dog that can fit in a designer bag, and all the high-end clothes she wants. But when she gets an e-mail from her high school ex-boyfriend’s wife announcing the birth of their child, she realizes something she’s been missing: Him.
She returns to her small hometown of Mercury, Minn., to seek out her high school boyfriend Buddy (Patrick Wilson), win his heart, and steal him away from his wife and baby. As expected, this doesn’t turn out very well for poor disillusioned Mavis. Instead she reconnects with another guy from high school, Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt). Matt is disabled and happens to hate the world just as much as our alcoholic anti-heroine.
Young Adult is refreshing in its awkwardness, especially with a female playing the role usually reserved for man-child characters usually embodied by Will Ferrell. Those types of movies are also usually straight comedies, while this one is definitely darker. It’s always refreshing to see reality portrayed on the big screen as opposed to fantasy. The situation in Young Adult is one that (hopefully) would be an extreme version of reality, but the situation is still one that is completely relatable.
Charlize Theron is completely stripped down in this film, emotionally and at times, physically. She’s sloppy, wears streaked and faded make-up, chugs booze, and is a walking mess. Her actions are reprehensible, but we know enough about her motives to understand where she is coming from. There are several awkward comments that she makes towards Buddy and each time she does, the audience cringes with pity for her. Theron plays her perfectly, nailing the look of contempt for the entire world around her while trying to keep her image as what she believes is a successful writer.
The only character in the film that actually tells her she’s absolutely crazy is Matt, and his chemistry with Mavis is charming in contrast to the icy coldness she puts out towards everyone else. Matt harbors a glimmer of what used to be feelings for her as the popular girl in high school, but now he has nothing to lose. He tells it to her like it is, whether she listens or not. Their relationship is incredibly real. It’s also a complete treat to get to see Patton Oswalt score with Charlize Theron.
Mavis’s attempts at getting Buddy back become more and more extreme and finally culminate in an emotional breakdown of a scene that is uncomfortable for the characters onscreen, as well as the audience. Mavis is a complete and utter wreck, but she believes with all of her heart that she is more refined and sane than her friends and family from back home in the small town. There is no big realization moment at the end of the film; Mavis still believes she is right.
Written by Diablo Cody, Young Adult thankfully isn’t as cutesy as Juno was. Young Adult has heart, but takes the time to explore the darker side of Mavis. The uncomfortable part is that while the film is uncovering these despicable areas of Mavis, it also serves as a mirror to the audience, forcing them to see themselves in bits and pieces of her character. Young Adult deserved some recognition at awards show time; it’s really a fascinating, funny, dark film that gets better upon every viewing.
In my opinion, this Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic. Maybe it’s because I’m just a big fan of the song that plays over and over throughout the film, “The Concept” by Teenage Fanclub, and the rest of the awesome 90’s songs used in the film. The extras are a lot of fun as well, with lots of interesting information given about the filmmaking process by Diablo Cody, Jason Reitman, and the entire cast. The extras include a making of featurette “Misery Loves Company: Making Young Adult”, a fun behind the scenes “The Awful Truth: Deconstructing A Scene”, a cool Q&A featuring Janet Maslin and Jason Reitman at the Jacob Burns Film Center, and several fun deleted scenes. Also included is a commentary track with Jason Reitman, Director of Photography Eric Steelberg, and First Assistant Director/Associate Producer Jason A. Blumenfeld. The Blu-ray also comes with a convenient digital copy.
If you are as turned off by the sight of Diablo Cody’s name in the writer’s credit of a film (as I was), give Young Adult a chance. The way that the script balances a very sad, awkward situation with humor and heart is a testament to Cody’s writing abilities. Maybe she has more to offer than I thought. Young Adult is well written, well acted, well made, and much better than I ever could have expected.
Paramount Pictures presents Young Adult. Directed by: Jason Reitman. Starring: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson. Written by: Diablo Cody. Running time: 94 minutes. Rating: R. Released on Blu-ray: March 13, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Charlize Theron, Diablo Cody, Jason Reitman, Juno, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt, Young Adult