Charlize Theron Downplays Her Sexy Looks in ‘Young Adult’ Movie Review
Young Adult never really latched on with domestic audiences, and it’s understandable why. The film earned just $16m in the U.S. despite a recognizable star (Charlize Theron) and an emerging named director and writer. The film is difficult to classify. It was sold as a comedy, but it’s definitely dark – if and when you are laughing. Meanwhile, it carries the pacing of a drama. Its lead is an adult who thinks she’s still young, in part due to her profession and in part because she really appears to be mentally challenged and depressed. This is a film with a strange tone, very independent in nature though seemingly aspiring to bigger audience appeal. What results is a middling film that struggles to find its footing with an audience. It tries to be too many things at once and ends up hitting singles and doubles instead of home runs most of the time. What laughs there are do hurt deliciously though.
Theron does “her thing” – which is to play against her considerable looks. Her Mavis Gary is a ghostwriter for a once popular teen series of books. So, while she has the money from a seemingly successful career, she doesn’t really have the recognition. A writer’s life is lonely. She is of a small town who moved on to write in big, bad Minneapolis. However, her loneliness leads her to return home to said small town to try to win back her high school flame, Buddy (Patrick Wilson). Unfortunately, as Mavis is well aware, Buddy has a newborn and a wife to contend with. Alas, she intends to breakup his marriage and be with Buddy.
‘Up In The Air’ Director Jason Reitman and ‘Juno’ writer Diablo Cody Team Up for ‘Young Adult‘
While Mavis arrives in said small hometown, she meets Matt (Patton Oswalt) at a bar. Matt was a former classmate who Mavis barely remembers. Oh yeah, Matt is a “cripple”, due to an unfortunate beating he took in high school. Matt is every bit as depressed as Mavis is, without the delusions of grandeur. You can already tell where their relationship is heading and that is one of the saccharine issues with Young Adult. It’s obvious Mavis, who thinks like a “Y.A.” as she calls it, does so because she is a writer attempting to get into the mind of teens for her book series. Her delusion takes on a real form though, due to a failed marriage of her own along with massive amounts of Maker’s Mark – a stiff whisky for those not in the know.
Ultimately, Mavis chases Buddy, while Matt looms. The conclusion to the drama is coming from a mile away, but that’s not always the point. The beats the film hits are typical and expected. However, the movie still has so many moments of awkward discomfort that there is redemption to be had. The juxtaposition of small town and big town is at play. The idea of giving up who you were and moving on from your past. There are some real themes explored in Young Adult and the film is mostly successful at this exploration.
Still, its not an entirely fun ride getting there – director Jason Reitman lacks visual flair, simply portraying small town America as a place few would seemingly want to be, yet most are. The punch to Diablo Cody’s writing is biting but errs on sadness rather than humorous. You wanted to laugh more than you were allowed to. That ultimately settles the film into middle of the road fare, kind of like it’s small town and local denizens. They’re either happily dimwitted or occupied with repressed depression and neither is a particularly pleasurable place to be.