Review: Young Adult
A review by SLAM ADAMS
Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, and Patrick Wilson
Plot: A writer returns to her hometown to try and rekindle a romance with her highschool sweet heart.
Charlize Theron plays one of the most insufferable human beings ever, Mavis. Mavis is a writer of young adult fiction. She writes stories about an impossibly attractive and popular girl in highschool. At one point, it is even referenced that she won prom queen at a school she didn’t even attend. This is appropriate considering Mavis is still living in highschool. Her ego has been artificially blown up based on all the praise and attention she used to get in highschool. She still thinks of herself as gorgeous even though she hit the age where her horrible personality starts overwriting how attractive people find her. She is without any kind of empathy or compassion, and she is not averse to ruining other people’s lives for her own selfish gain. The tragic spin on it would be she is suffering from depression, but I think she is a little too giddy about some things to meet the criteria.
Theron is fantastic in the role. Patton Oswalt said on Kevin Smith’s radio show that this is probably her best role ever because she just puts herself out there. Unlike her other critically acclaimed performance, Monster, she has no make-up to hide behind. She risks attaching this performance to her actual appearance, but she gets so lost in the role it won’t make a difference. Her wit is razor sharp and well-laced. I am surprised that her comedic timing as not been taken advantage of before. Not since her stint on Arrested Development as she been this funny. She is almost too good that she forgets to add any level of charisma or likability (even a roguish likability) into the character of Mavis.
That is the inherent flaw in the movie. It is hard investing in the movie, when it is too hard to care about what happens to her. By the end of the movie, she hits rock bottom, get dragged through the mud, and has all her delusions disappear right in front of her. She escapes into the arms of the highschool nerd who is the only person who sees her for what she really is and accepts her for that. Patton Oswalt needs to be mentioned here because he does a fantastic job. Mavis’ epiphany is short-term. She seems reborn for a few seconds being conscientious to Oswalt’s sister and doesn’t go running for the hills after another empty sexual encounter. Unfortunately, Oswalt’s sister throws her back in her funk reinvigorating her ego. Mavis is put right back into her notion of highschool superiority by a person who never got over her highschool inferiority.
Reitman’s movies are usually a perfect balance of comedy and drama revealing the bittersweet notion of humanity. This effort just doesn’t seem to mesh though, and his bittersweet notions seem just plain bitter.
SIX out of TEN