Young Adult (2011)
Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a successful writer of teen literature who returns to her hometown with a dual mission: to relive her glory days, and steal away her now-married high-school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson). However, her mission does not go exactly to plan, and she finds her homecoming more problematical than she expected. Instead, Mavis forms an unusual bond with a former classmate (Patton Oswalt), who has also found it difficult to move past high school.
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Young Adult Theatrical Review
Take two aspirins and go to bed, a great remedy for Young Adult, an over stated understatement that never gets entertaining. Billed as a comedy, the more the cast tries to make it one, the lesser it becomes. If you like a film with angst riddled plot, underdeveloped characters and only one very good performance than you are the only demographic for this film.
At the center of the plot is an alcoholic Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) a ghostwriter who has been giving her all to a series of teen books that has hit its final chapter. Drawing a blank for the final story, she decides to go back to the home town on which she has turned her back so many year ago. Her intention here is to reclaim Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) her high school sweetheart, dive into a past that only her dreams remember and start a new life. One major problem, Buddy is married to Beth (Elizabeth Reaser). Her solution to the problem, forge straight ahead no matter what the obstacle.
Something bothered me about Young Adult and then it came to me, Charlize Theron. The awesome actress that can ordinarily play any character with her amazing ability was terribly miscast. The persona she portrayed sadly did not fit the part of this ‘lost' writer that finds herself at the crossroads of her career. Maybe it's the abundance of her acting brilliance that overshadows her Mavis Gary, but her performance looked forced, unsympathetic and not in balance with the storyline.
There are problems with directing by Jason Reitman (Juno) and the storyline as well. Reitman's characters are not developed, especially Mavis who we only get negligible information of her life prior to returning to her past. Why did she stay in Minneapolis? Why no contact with her hometown within the same state? What drove her to drink? Why wouldn't she have achieved her own fame as a writer after the many years since she has left her hometown? All of which would have helped her character, otherwise I got the impression she is a psycho.
Patrick Wilson and Elizabeth Reaser play the dumbed down characters that are supposed to provide the competitive action in the film, but seem to be the butt of most of the comedy that Reitman is trying to accomplish. They are laughable characters, not ones that find themselves in a situation comedy.
Patten Oswalt's performance provides the only reason to see Young Adult. Giving a terrific characterization of Matt Freehauf, a damaged man who was nearly beaten to death by his high school classmates after being accused of being gay, he becomes the comforter to Mavis as she plays out her plan to steal Buddy Slade from his wife Beth. Secretly in love with Mavis in High School, Matt agrees to help her in the chance that he can get one last shot at accomplishing his wet dream. You may have seen Oswalt in many roles where he was just a pawn in the plot (A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas), but here he steals the show.
Young Adult has been rated R for language and some sexual content. It also has scenes of alcohol abuse. If this helps with how I feel about this film, I didn't like Rachel Getting Married starring Ann Hathaway for some of the same reasons.
-- John Delia
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Young Adult images © Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.