Man child stories aren’t always limited just to men and their inability to grow up and act like a regular human being. YOUNG ADULT proves that women can also effectively portray this specific type of adult, except here there’s a mixed bag of uncomfortable behavior, mean spirited dialogue and a sad sense of neglect. None of those descriptions apply to either Jason Reitman or Diablo Cody but instead apply to the characters within the film- although YOUNG ADULT is a mixed bag at times in terms of the overall impression it leaves at the end.
Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a ghost writer of a popular young adult book series that is on its last leg. When she receives an email notice that her ex-boyfriend, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) and his wife have had a child she decides to return to her hometown that she hates to win back Buddy’s affection. Once back in town she strikes a strange friendship with an old classmate, Matt (Patton Oswalt), where they both trade unflattering jokes and insults at each other. Mavis’ sense of denial intensifies as she makes everyone around her extremely uncomfortable until she is forced to come to terms with her problems.
I find myself in another one of those conflicted moods after watching a film where I want to praise a lot of things about the film but also want to hold back because I don’t feel blown away or even overwhelmingly positive about every specific aspect of YOUNG ADULT. Here is a film that is competently made, well acted and written yet there’s just something about it that feels impenetrable and frustrating- which might even be brilliant because it mirrors the psyche of the main character.
Charlize Theron perfectly captures the essence of the character Mavis. Her character is mean, careless and full of self satisfaction. She has a sense of confidence in herself that is awkward and unflattering and is alarmingly aware that her actions and words harm those around her but doesn’t care. Theron embodies each of these characteristics and is lost in the character where you don’t even see Charlize Theron anymore and only see this shallow ugly shell of a person with so many defective character flaws that it’s even more alarming to think of the fact that we all probably know someone exactly like her.
YOUNG ADULT is one of those films that I enjoyed many individual aspects such as the performances, premise and names attached to the film but was left with a conflicting feeling at the end that causes me to ultimately come down a little less than enthusiastic about the film. Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody both handle their roles directing/writing very well- there are just certain choices that either didn’t sit well or weren’t as effective that kept me from ever getting fully on board. The standout moment that alienated me personally was towards the end when we think a personal epiphany is about to happen and another character steps in only to reinforce another’s self destructive behavior. The feeling that left me with was that of anger because rather than leaving the journey with any sort of point or direction it left me shrugging my shoulders at how everything previously seemed to serve no purpose.
The end was certainly a point of contention for me and while I have my issues with it I can’t say it ruined the entire movie. Theron and Oswalt give fantastic performances, Reitman still directs the film very well and Cody’s writing while far more pessimistic than I really wanted was still pretty sharp. YOUNG ADULT is not one of those feel good movies of the year but is good for quite a few awkward laughs when you’re not taking a personal inquiry of your own life to ensure you’re not the Mavis in your own life.
Reviewed By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)