Film Review: Young Adult

(Published in Issue 7 of my publication In Retrospect)

From the duo that created Juno, directed by Jason Reitman and based on a screenplay written by Diablo Cody, Young Adult is a dark comedy that followers teen literature author Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) who hasn’t quite gotten over high school. After a recent divorce and on deadline with her editor to finish the last book of her soon-to-be-canceled series, Mavis returns to her hometown after receiving a photograph of her ex-highschool boyfriend Buddy’s (Patrick Wilson) new baby, thinking it to be a sign that the two are meant to be together. Despite Buddy’s new family with his wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser), Mavis is determined to rekindle their romance, but her drinking sessions with fellow highschool classmate Matt (Patton Oswalt) don’t bring out her best side, as it becomes obvious that Mavis still has a few lessons to learn in life.

Still encompassing the coming-of-age type genre that Juno highlighted, Young Adult offers much of the same themes and situations as it focuses on one central character that goes through one big change that begs them to change their ways, learn from their mistakes and grow up to fix the underlying problems in their lives. This time around, however, the film’s central character is not a 17-year-old highschool student, as much as she may act it and, instead, a 30-something ex-Prom Queen that is still holding on to the past. Beginning with this similar jumping-off point, the film goes off on a very different tangent despite the subtle similarities to Juno as Mavis, now depressed and completely self-obsessed, puts herself in a series of awkward confrontations with her past in an attempt to fix the troubles of her present life.

This anti-romantic is a great story that isn’t often told and, for that, it was quite an enjoyable film to watch. Whilst both this plot and the film’s dialogue is excellent, many of the scenes didn’t include much else away from the conversations to keep it entertaining. Funny at first, it was easy to get dragged down with Mavis’ depression throughout the central part of the film before you are quickly brought back up again in the final few scenes that rounded the film up suitably. It’s hard to say what it was that I didn’t like about the film, but I didn’t think it was great. Because the scenes were well-directed with a great script it’s hard to put my finger on what was wrong but something was very much lacking and I almost fell to boredom before the end.

The best part of the film, of course, was Theron as, something that often can be said her, she was deeply immersed in her role. I’m now very much looking forward to her role in the upcoming fairytale re-telling of Snow White And The Huntsman, as her role here already holds a few signs of resemblance to the Evil Queen character she will be playing later this year. Comedian Oswalt was also a great addition to the cast as he became a likeable character out of nowhere. He was the safety net of the film, as if all else wasn’t going so well, both for the character’s in the film and the audience watching it, then he would jump in to help savour it.

Unfortunately, there’s not much to say about the other characters and/or actors in the film as they could have been played by anyone without it making much of a difference. I guess this primary focus on Theron and Oswalt’s character’s is a reason as to why I felt that the film didn’t work so well, as, whilst these two main characters excelled, no character development went on outside of this forming relationship so it was hard to relate to anything but Mavis’ self-involved self.

In the end, though, it was still very easy to like Mavis through Theron’s portrayal of her as the feeling of holding on to the past is something that everybody can take away from. For that reason, you should watch it.

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