Monday, December 19, 2011

Young Adult - Movie Review

Young Adult is the new movie by Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody, who originally teamed up for Juno, which is a movie I really liked.  I know some people are a little on the Diablo Cody 'hate train' because Jennifer's Body wasn't all that good.  They can't all be gems; and she's only written a handful of things, so I'm willing to cut her some slack.  Fortunately, it helps that she's reunited with Reitman.  Where Juno was a little more cute and trendy, I think Young Adult is much more cynical.

Young Adult is about Mavis (Charlize Theron): a broken, emotionally crippled, alcoholic, sociopath that's a semi-successful, young adult book author. One day, she gets a mail about her old flame (Patrick Wilson) that is having a baby with his wife.  In her warped mind, she takes that as a sign that he's not happy and she decides to go back home, with the sole goal of reconnecting with him and stealing him back.

Once she's back home she reconnects with Matt (Patton Oswalt), who had some pretty messed up stuff happen to him back in High School and doesn't look back fondly at that time, or even Mavis really.  Matt is the voice of reason throughout the movie and calls Mavis out on her behavior throughout for the duration of the movie.

So, why would you watch this based on the premise, when it's clear that Mavis is a terrible person?   It's mainly because of Charlize Theron.   It takes an actress of her caliber to make this work.  In fact, I'm not sure anyone else could have pulled it off.  It's a perfect casting.  You should hate Mavis, and you'd be right to, but you can watch it simply based on her performance and the script.  Charlize has long been one of my favorite actresses and I'm glad to see her play against type.  It's one of the better performances of the year.

I laughed throughout most of this film, even if it at times it was uncomfortable laughter.  I like darker comedies and this didn't let me down.  I have to credit this to the script of Diablo Cody.  I don't know why she's generated so much hate, but I think she's did well here.  Jason Reitman is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors and he seems to know how to make a movie watchable even if they don't always feature characters that are likeable.

I loved Patton Oswalt here!  I don't know if his geek references were due to him or Cody (I'm suspecting Oswalt, since it's mainly Star Wars references).  As Patton Oswalt is known for being brought in to punch up scripts, I have to wonder if he was able to help keep the script as funny as it was.  I think you could make a best supporting actor case for him.  It's another great performance and at times he might break your heart a little bit.  His scenes with Theron are the best parts of the movie.

I heard someone complain that there's no character growth and no third act.  While I do admit that the movie ends kind of abruptly with no resolution, I felt like that was that point.  Mavis is 37.  People don't change that much fundamentally at 37, especially in a short period of time and even more so when they are psychologically damaged.  I'm 38 and I don't see me changing much at this point either, for better or worse.  And no wise cracks about my psychological damage either.

One of the things I liked about he script was that it wasn't like Juno and tried to be too cute.  This is more of a character study, to the point where this felt like more of an independent film that stars an A-list actor.  This isn't going to appeal to a large audience.  If this hadn't been peppered with humor throughout the movie, I don't' think you'd be able to get through it without hating everyone.

Overall, I really liked Young Adult, but I like dark movies that have a cynical view of people.  That it's funny is what really makes this entertaining for me.  This might not be for everyone because it's on the dark side and doesn't have a happy ending, but it's worth watching simply based on the performances of Theron and Oswalt alone.

I give this 3.5 Death Stars (out of 5). It's probably a better rental based on what it's about, but I really did like the movie.


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