Best Movies of All Time + Young Adult



"Here's the deal: Buddy Slade and I are meant to be together, and I'm here to get him back."
-- Mavis Gary

Young Adult is a 2011 dramatic comedy directed by Jason Reitman that tells the story of a former prom queen who returns to her hometown in order to win back her high school sweetheart. Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), who has garnered success as the ghost writer for an incredibly popular series of young adult novels, learns that her former beau Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) has welcomed a newborn daughter with his wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser). Distraught, Mavis packs her things and makes her way from her home in Minneapolis to the small town of Mercury, Minnesota, where she was born and raised. After making plans to meet with Buddy, she stumbles into a local bar and reconnects with former classmate Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), in whom she drunkenly confides her plan to destroy the Slade marriage. Matt protests and tells her that her plan is foolish, but Mavis ignores his warnings and attempts to win back the supposed love of her life.

I first heard about this film a couple of months ago, but it was never very high my "must-see" list; however, after scoring a Golden Globe nomination for Theron's leading performance, I figured I'd give it a shot. After doing a little bit of research, I learned that this was a Reitman-helmed and Diablo Cody-written flick, and that added a bit of interest for me (for those of you who may recall, Cody won an Oscar for her screenplay for 2007's Juno). Also add that I'm usually impressed with Theron and have a love/hate relationship with Wilson, I thought I'd give this one a view seeing as time permitted.

I've been hearing a lot of good things about the film's screenplay, but I personally couldn't find a way to get into it entirely. That doesn't mean, however, that I hated it completely. Let's start with the pros. First, I like the correlation and connectivity between the film's story and the novel that the Mavis character is writing periodically throughout the film. In a way, the leading character in Mavis's leading novel - a high school cheerleader - is going through the same issues in a bit of a reduced capacity, considering the age difference. Also, I thought the characters within the film were incredibly well-written, especially that of Mavis herself. There's a depth to each of the characters that's rare in a lot of mainstream flicks nowadays.

And now for the cons. I understand where Cody was going with the screenplay, but I don't think she necessarily brought the story full circle. She crafted the Mavis character to be a woman who is in a state of suspended adolescence. After a series of tragic events, all of which are mentioned during the film, it's easy to see how a similarly afflicted individual might respond in such a psychological manner. However, Mavis is crafted as such an unlikable character that it's difficult for the audience to care about her in any respect. And because she's the central character and appears in the film's every scene, it's going to take a lot for your average moviegoer to enjoy this one if they can't find any reason to like our lead. In a way, this may have been the point of the film, but for whatever reason, I just thought that it fell a little flat. The film's final climax and turn just didn't have the power they should have had, and as a result, I think the film suffers a little bit.

That's not to say that the acting was at fault. I thought that Theron did a fantastic job with the character, and if she manages to win awards for her performance, I wouldn't be surprised. The real surprise was Oswalt, who managed to bring most of the film's comedy to the screen; however, he also brought a good chunk of drama, and in that, I was thoroughly impressed. His stock has been on the rise since his well-received role in 2009's Big Fan, so maybe we'll have a chance to see him in some more in the coming years. Wilson and Reaser do well with their respective roles, but they're vastly underutilized. Even if the story wasn't centered around their own relationship, I think the movie might have benefited from a little more of drama between Mavis and the Slade couple. Also be on the lookout for a couple of great scenes from Collette Wolfe.

Ultimately, I'm not sure whether I can honestly recommend that you go watch Young Adult. In ways, it's a well-written film that offers some fine acting performances, but it lacks a signature punch that pushes it ahead of other dramatic comedies. It's not necessarily going to leave you with a good taste in your mouth. In his review for the Detroit News, Tom Long said that "Young Adult may be the year's most engaging feel-bad movie." While I agree with calling it a "feel-bad" film, I just didn't find it all that engaging. Maybe I'm missing something.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: B
0.5 Thumbs Up

2011, Charlize Theron, Collette Wolfe, comedy, Diablo Cody, drama, Elizabeth Reaser, Jason Reitman, movie review, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt, romance, and more:

Relevant to: YOUNG ADULT + Young Adult