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Young Adult (2011)

DVD Cover (Paramount)
Genres:
Black Comedy, Comedy, Comedy Drama, Tragi-Comedy
Director:
Jason Reitman Jason Reitman
Starring:
Charlize Theron Charlize Theron
Patton Oswalt Patton Oswalt
Patrick Wilson Patrick Wilson
Elizabeth Reaser Elizabeth Reaser
Collette Wolfe Collette Wolfe

6.3 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: December 22, 2011
Damn you, Jason Reitman, for being a rock star juggernaut. After three commercially and critically successful films ("Thank You for Smoking", "Juno", "Up in the Air"), he takes the most unconventional path towards "Young Adult", the least mainstream film he has ever made and definitely the darkest and most affecting. I compare this film in many respects to when Gore Verbinski directed "The Weather Man", a stark contrast from his previous works. This is not as drastic a change for Reitman but it's still a different path for the director.

In yet another Oscar-worthy performance, the criminally and consistently underrated Charlize Theron stars as Mavis Gary, one of the more deplorable lead characters in recent cinematic history. After receiving an e-mail announcing the birth of a child belonging to her ex-boyfriend, Mavis decides to head back to her old hometown to take back her man, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), who is happily married and a content dad. Mavis is delusional in her newly formed fascination with Buddy and she confides her plan to a high school classmate of hers, Matt (Patton Oswalt), who uses a crutch since he was assaulted by jocks in high school and left for dead.

Mavis' deranged plan involves getting Buddy alone in potentially compromising situations, plying him with alcohol and letting their 'natural chemistry' take its toll. But Buddy has no eyes for Mavis and loves his life, which is difficult for Mavis to understand. She lives in Minneapolis and is the ghost-writer for a series of once successful young adult novels and considers her life to be so much better than those back in her hometown. As Mavis goes about her plans, we slowly start to see just how unhappy Mavis is and just why she might be that way. Reitman does a fine job of showing us why this character is so depraved but never really excuses it, which is to be commended. We never really feel much sympathy for Mavis and watch in discomfort as she makes her moves.

"Young Adult" is a portrait of a dysfunctional, alcoholic woman and her desperation in her attempts to make her life have meaning. Take, for example, a scene in a book store when Mavis is basically beginning the teenage clerk to take some interest in her work and allow her to sign some books. Or, the 'party scene', where Mavis makes a rather startling revelation about she and Buddy that explains a lot about why she is the way she is. Theron is fearless in this performance and never shies away from this kind of dark, difficult material. Very few actresses are brave enough to tackle this kind of role, so kudos to Theron for upping the game for all of her peers.

Patton Oswalt should also be commended for an exceptional performance as the pseudo-comic relief and 'normal' person through whom we see what is happening the most clearly. His character, too, is somewhat stunted but he can see that what Mavis is doing is going to spell disaster for her in the long run. Oswalt has the likable oaf thing down but it's much more than that - he is able to evoke so much empathy, the kind that Theron's character cannot. And that is what makes his character all the more important to the film.

I cannot say this is my favorite Jason Reitman film but it's certainly his most ambitious and he deserves credit for having the brass balls to take it on. It makes me respect him as a filmmaker even more. But I think the fact that we never can sympathize with Mavis is also a downside. She is the star of the film and we're following her journey and I found that I was far more interested in Theron's performance as Mavis than Mavis herself. But this is one picky little note in an otherwise terrific piece of cinema. Kudos to all involved. 8/10.
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