Cody and Reitman reunite in Young Adult
Young Adult is about a woman named Mavis played by Charlize Theron, who was one of the only people from a small town who made a life for herself. Mavis is the author of a successful young adult novel series and is living in the big city. While it seems that life on the surface is perfect, Mavis really isn’t that happy in fact she is down right depressed. We soon learn that Mavis is divorced, an alcoholic, and is living life in the past. One day, Mavis gets an email from an old flame inviting her to a baby shower. This is when Mavis gets the idea that if she goes back to her hometown and reunites with an old flame named Buddy (Patrick Wilson) that she will be happy for the first time in her adult life. A very dark comedic film ensues…
It feels like it was so long ago that I saw a screening for Young Adult, but in reality it has only been a few weeks ago. While I really enjoyed the film, this is one of those movies that was released at the wrong time of year. It is obvious that Fox Searchlight was banking on this film being Oscar bait, however, compared to amount of solid films competing for an Oscar nod this year, Young Adult sadly falls short. I realize that sounds harsh and while I am not trying to be harsh, I have to admit that November and December have been two solid months for great films. Because of this, Young Adult has fallen off the top of many film critics 10 ten lists including my own.
Does that mean that Young Adult is bad? No, not at all. Young Adult is very witty and extremely dark. I appreciate dark comedy, but I think this film might have been too dark for its own good. The entire movie is setup to make the audience feel uncomfortable and awkward, which the film does a solid job of. The problem, however, is that there are moments that I know as a film lover, who has admired film-making since I was five that were not suppose to produce laughs and did because the audience felt really awkward. I personally feel that if Young Adult went for a dark and serious drama, which I think it is for the most part, than the film would have been better received by both audience members and critics. The problem as I stated above is that many people weren’t sure when it was being serious and when it was being funny.
When watching the film most of the time that it was funny the audience got the joke, however, there were serious moments such as when Mavis and Matt (Patton Oswalt) were comforting one another near the end of the film and a ton of people in the audience were laughing. I know for a fact that this scene was not intended to produce laughs, but because people felt so uncomfortable by what they were watching already a lot of people inside my theater began to laugh and chuckle. It really ruined one of the more powerful moments in the film. There were also some other moments that I felt the script was uncertain about its tone. There was a powerful scene in the woods with Matt and Mavis, but it was ruined by raunchy dialogue.
The film, however, tells a story that we don’t see that often and I admire Diablo Cody for writing it. This is about a popular, talented, and beautiful woman who is dealing with depression, being lonely, and alcoholism. As you can tell from the themes, its a really hard sell as a comedy, but somehow the comedic elements do work, but as I said only to some degree. If the film spent the first 30 or so minutes being a dark comedy and then the rest of the film being a heavy drama, I feel it would have worked out better as a whole. The story is intriguing and well written, but sadly suffers from identity issues in certain scenes where it seems that Cody was uncertain whether or not she wanted the moment to be funny or serious.
Charlize Theron gives a terrific performance here, which is one of the best ones of her career outside of Monster, which won her the Oscar. Theron did get a Golden Globe nomination for her performance, but I am not sure if she will win since there is so much tough competition this year. She is truly brilliant playing Mavis and delivers some really powerful lines. Patton Oswalt is also pretty solid here, which gives him a chance to show that he has some acting ability outside being a standup comedian. All the other minor characters including Patrick Wilson also do a fine job. All the acting is stellar and the actors are the perfect fit for their roles.
Even though I think that Young Adult isn’t Jason Reitman’s best film, I still think he did an amazing job directing it. He continuously proves that he is one of the best up and coming directors in Hollywood. He really knows how to get the most out of his actors and gets them to give amazing performances. He also really knows how to setup the tone and mood in his films, which seems very few directors can do with ease, yet Reitman does.
At the end of the day, Young Adult is one of those movies that I think if it was released in March would have been an early Oscar contender because it would have stood out more. With the film being released in mid-December it fails to compare to the other top contenders like The Descendents, Hugo, Carnage, and The Artist. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a good film because it is pretty damn solid and boasts an amazing performance by Charlize Theron to boot. It is clear that Reitman and Cody are an amazing team and even though they may not get a nomination this year for their writing or directing, I would really like to see this duo continue to make films together. If you are a fan of dark comedies and like films that tackle dark subject matters, I highly recommend you give Young Adult a look.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for Young Adult is a 7 out of 10.