Friday, January 6, 2012
YOUNG ADULT (2011)
Directed by Jason Reitman
Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. December 19, 2011 1:30PM
In the dark comedy, "Young Adult", Charlize Theron, in a brilliantly sly performance, plays Mavis Gary who is the type of person we all knew in high school; the pretty, popular cheerleader who never noticed anybody that didn't belong in her close circle of friends and dated the handsome, football quarterback. We would assume that she would get married, have beautiful children and live out a wonderfully, perfect, stress-free existence.
There seems be some justice in the world as that is not how life turned out for Mavis. She didn't marry her high-school sweetheart and has wound up an unhappy, bitter drunk whose marriage has ended in divorce. Her daily routine begins with her waking up, very hung over, in a messy apartment in Minneapolis where she is an uncredited writer of young adult novels, living on a steady diet of junk food and reality television.
Mavis receives an e-mail where she discovers that her former boyfriend, Buddy (Patrick Wilson) is married and has had his first child. This news shocks Mavis deeply to her core, causing her to reevaluate her own life. She decides the best solution is for her to go back to the small town that she escaped from, win Buddy back and all of her problems will be solved.
While back in town, Mavis stops in a old watering hole where she is recognized by Matt (Patton Oswalt) who went to high school with her. She has no idea who he is until he reminds her of the savage beating he received because some students thought that he was gay which has left him physically disabled to this day. Mavis initially dismisses him until drinks are bought and soon she feels comfortable enough with Matt to reveal her grand scheme to him. Matt strongly advises her against this but Mavis is very determined that it's the right thing to do.
Mavis arranges to meet Buddy for drinks where she's sure that sparks are still flying between them and after later meeting his wife (Elizabeth Reaser), who also went to school with Mavis, and their baby, she becomes even more confident that she will be able to get Buddy to come to his senses and return to the city with her. Mavis's misguided and delusional plan doesn't end well but it certainly doesn't in a way that you would expect which is part of the charm of this deliciously pitch-black comedy. There is no life lesson or happy ending which is surprising yet very refreshing.
"Young Adult" reunites the team of Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman who had great success with the comedy, "Juno" and have another strong winner on their hands. Like the previous films that he wrote and directed, "Thank-You For Smoking" and "Up In The Air", Mr. Reitman has the gift of inventively knowing how to take small stories that don't appear like there would be much to do with creatively and making them perfectly fit on the big screen by adding sharp crackling dialogue, rich textured performances and keeping it all moving at a brisk, high-energy pace. He is helped by an adept script by Ms Cody whose work, while very funny, seemed to be in danger of verging on one-note with the focus seeming to be dominated by youth-oriented subjects, littered with pop-culture references and snappy slang but the writer has grown-up with "Young Adult" which is more grounded and mature that doesn't rely so heavily on cute, savvy language.
Ms Theron was never given a fair shake as an actress at the beginning of her career due to her great beauty so, she felt she needed to conceal it up to be taken seriously. In the 2003 film, "Monster" playing real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos, Theron was physically unrecognizable in a riveting performance and it won her an Oscar in the process. She is also a terrific comedian skillfully able to take an unpleasant, self-absorbed character and make her fascinating and hilarious. She is helped by having a solid partner in the form of Mr. Oswalt, who is best known as a stand-up comedian. He handles the humor effortlessly but also more than capable of delivering the dramatic moments of Matt's life that are sweet, sad and sympathetic.
While I didn't find the conclusion of "Young Adult" completely satisfying as there were moments that felt clunky and implausible but overall, the film is wicked fun and highly enjoyable. You will find yourself appalled and amused by Mavis's single-minded pursuit of her own happiness, no matter the consequences of her outrageous behaviour and complete lack of boundaries.