After the success of “Up in the Air,” director Jason Reitman once again hits the screen with an Oscar contender in the Diablo Cody penned drama, “Young Adult.” This movie follows 30-something, young adult fiction ghostwriter Mavis Gary (an admittedly autobiographical character based on Cody played by Charlize Theron) and her mission to return to her home town to breakup the happy marriage of her ex just after he had his first child.
As she relives her glory days of high school popularity, she convinces herself that, despite all signs to the contrary, her ex is actually miserable and wants to be taken out of his marriage. The voice of reason comes from Matt (Patton Oswalt), a fellow high school classmate who never made it out of their small hometown. He tries to convince Mavis that her ex is happy and what she is doing is wrong, but she, like always, turns words around in her head to make that sound like encouragement.
As she lives her own story she is writing her last book for a young adult series. Mavis has to try to write a life for her characters, yet she can’t even get her own life under control.
Diablo Cody wrote “Juno.” Since then, she has risen from ex-stripper to writer, and the country loved her. But now one person’s opinion of her is higher than anyone can imagine – her opinion of herself. That is the message of “Young Adult.”
This is the most self indulgent, self praising piece of work since “Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk. The main character – Theron – is despised by the audience for the entire movie as the plot rises and falls, yet she learns nothing. It’s as if Jimmy Stewart killed himself at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
This sociopath thinks that all the problems of the story we have witnessed, all the problems she created for herself, are actually everyone else’s fault. When you walk out of the theater, you are depressed because the moral it leaves you with is this terrible woman’s thought, “I’m awesome and everyone just needs to deal with it.”
No justice, no character arc, just that guilty people go unpunished and don’t even care because they are better than you. Why would a story end like that? It undoes a fairly enjoyable movie. The whole thing leads in one direction, then it just seems to say, “Never mind.”
I am comfortable talking about the end result of the movie because it doesn’t give away or change any of the story. It just goes on whether she is good or bad. Life remains unchanged.
That being said, so far as the acting I know others have been whispering about Oscar possibles, and this reporter thinks Patton Oswalt has a shot. A comedian who plays drama this well may get a mention come Oscar time.
Theron and Oswalt had such great chemistry that you really believe it, even to the bitter, depressing end. For Oswalt to hold his own on screen with the equally amazing, Oscar nominated actress Charlize Theron is no small task. This pairing makes you feel for the characters and, in Oswalt’s case, you become attached to the character. In Theron’s case, you are entranced by her narcissism. Even if the outcome of the story leaves the audience unhappy, the actors make up for it by being incredible. Watch for nominations from this movie come Oscar season.
Directed by Jason Reitman, I give this movie 1 out of 5 stars for the filmmaking (including the writing), 5 out of 5 for the actors. So to meet in the middle, 3 out of 5 stars.
See it, but maybe wait and rent it.