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Young Adult – A bleak but clever comedy

Young Adult - Theater Review
Release Date: 12/16/2011 - MPAA Rating: R
Clacker Rating: 4 Clacks

'Young Adult' is the new collaboration of director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody, and is both darkly honest and pretty darn funny.

High school is an odd time for most people — that odd four years preserved in the amber memories of our minds that is for some people the greatest time ever and for others … the absolute worst. And then there are those that didn’t feel it made much impression and just keep living their lives. This film has them all. In Young Adult, directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air), 37-year-old Mavis, played by Charlize Theron (HancockÆon Flux) is a reasonably successful ghost writer of a series of young adult books. But the series is about to end, and she has just one more book to write and procrastinate for, when she receives an email — a baby announcement from her high school flame Buddy, played by Patrick Wilson (Watchmen), who is now seemingly happily married with his new baby on the way. Mavis realizes that it’s a terrible mistake, because she was meant to be with Buddy, not this random woman (Elizabeth Reaser), so she’s off to the small town she grew up in to win him back. And leave his wife and child, it’s assumed.What a great person, right? After all, she was prom queen and he was prom king. So Mavis shows up back in that small town in Minnesota, keeping an eye out for Buddy. But then she runs into someone else from her high school, Matt, played by Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille), who was the victim of a horrible beating when other students suspected him of being gay — even though it turned out he wasn’t, but still led to lifelong infirmity. Over a few drinks, Mavis confides to a quite reasonably horrified Matt about her plans, and he is quick to tell her how awfully she’s acting. But Mavis is not to be dissuaded, so must beautify herself and ingratiate herself with the wife … for now. And even her bizarre almost-friendship just created with Matt doesn’t stop the plan from moving forward.

The movie doesn’t shy away from painting Mavis as a selfish, troubled person who is doing everything wrong. Patton Oswalt’s acerbic and hilarious Matt provides a sort of voice of reason that’s entirely ignored, while Patrick Wilson as Buddy is initially happy just to see an old friend. But will that pleasant feeling last…? Without giving away too much, the movie takes some unexpected twists and turns that are a welcome change from the cliched romantic comedies cluttering the movie landscape.

The writing is sharp and witty, without the oft-accused unrealistic teenage talk of Juno. As for the acting, it’s fantastic across the board. Patton Oswalt may not be stretching much in his potrayal, but his inner pain is obvious to see and he delivers lines with impeccable comic timing. Patrick Wilson perfectly conveys the older athlete who seems quite nice and confused about the whole thing, and Charlize Theron … well, this may be her finest performance yet. Playing a perfect blend of anger and arrogance throughout the film, her subtle changes of expression are utterly captivating.

I don’t want to give away how this thing ends — but I liked it quite a lot. This may not be the feel good movie of the year, but it just may be the feel awkward while laughing one.



Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

One Response to “Young Adult – A bleak but clever comedy”

December 16, 2011 at 7:18 PM


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