When going into a film I try to see it with as little knowledge as possible, I try to avoid trailers, I don’t want to know who directed it, and I like the surprises that can follow that experience. Sadly, that is not what happened when I went into Young Adult and yet I had the same experience. I had seen the trailer and knew Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Thank You For Smoking, Juno) and Diablo Cody (Juno) had reunited for another tail of high school related antics. Lucky for me though, as it was nowhere near what I expected.
Young Adult isn’t the laugh a minute riot that the film’s promotional angle would expect you to believe. In fact the the trailer acts more like a giggle highlight reel than a representation of what you’re about to pay to see. Young Adult is about as dry as it gets in the land of comedy. As the viewer we are asked to follow Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) a tweenie fiction writer that has managed to earn a living without the inclusion of sparkly vampires. After an uneventful one night stand Mavis decides to leave her big city life for a trip to her suburban home town. This sudden urge to travel down the streets of her pre-divorce dreams is lead by an invitation by her High School flame to attend his weekend of new born baby events. Mavis being the delusionally-depressed alcoholic that she is, sees this as an offer to start a new life with her happily married ex boyfriend.
While this plot could lead to a slew of hysterical events, Director Jason Reitman takes every chance to show the audience just how harsh life can really be. While Young Adult acts as a window into humanity, it doesn’t hold up to the emotional journey of Reitman’s other work. If you are expecting the same touching story that you got from Up in the Air or Thank You For Smoking then you may want to reassess your thoughts on the film. While I don’t think it holds up to the caliber of those two films that doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer.
Reitman and Cody manage to show the world that Juno wasn’t a fluke and do so in a new fashion of story telling. While Juno earned it’s charm from the quick-witted Ellen Page, Young Adult takes more of an ensemble approach. While most critics will rave about the performance of Theron it’s in a subdued Patton Oswalt that this film finds it’s charm. Oswalt plays Matt Freehauf, a disabled man that has suffered from more than mental scarring due to the attacks of his High School aggressors. As Mavis’ only true friend in town, Oswalt gives a performance on par with the effort he found in Big Fan. While Theron was the star it was Oswalt that stole the show and the reason people should see this film.
To me Young Adult is an underwhelming new approach to the old High School story. Being a person that fails to see the draw of reliving those “glory days” I found myself yearning for the film’s climax and like most teen experiences there was a lot of foreplay, a few bursts of emotion, and it was over within minutes of it’s inception. Just as my thoughts on High School, there was just nothing worth reliving in the film that can compare to moments lived currently. That’s not saying that Young Adult isn’t a good film, it is. It’s just not the comedy you were lead to believe or the emotional trip that you want it to be. Just like Mavis, we can find this film somewhere in the middle.
By Ryan Davis