Director Jason Reitman re-teams with writer Diablo Cody for Young Adult; a dark R-rated comedy starring Charlize Theron as a female man-child with lots of emotional baggage. It’s a well-directed, superbly acted dark comedy that works wonders for the majority of the film, but it lacks a concrete ending or purpose, making it feel a little pointless.
Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a semi-successful writer of young adult fiction. She doesn’t get actual credit for her work, but she doesn’t mind bragging about it to co-workers and random people she meets at bookstores. She’s a bit of a drinker without any real friends and the only time she was really happy was in high school. After receiving an email alert informing her that an old flame from high school, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), is having a kid, Mavis decides to pay a visit to her hometown of Mercury.
Her goal is to get Buddy to realize what a big mistake he made when he decided to get married and have a child. Mavis’ moral compass is a little off, but she doesn’t let that get in the way of breaking up Buddy’s happiness. She runs into an old high school classmate, Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), who is crippled and lacking self-esteem due to a misunderstood hate-crime from high school. A few jocks thought he was gay, so they assaulted him until they realized he was indeed a straight man, leaving Matt with a damaged penis and a constant limp.
Mavis instantly hits it off with Matt, who also enjoys a beverage or two. Matt looks at Mavis’ situation for the sheer insanity that it is and he makes a joke out of it playing the supporting friend that watches as she crashes and burns.
The more Mavis tries to seduce Buddy the more she realizes he’s perfectly content with his life and the more she understands that horrid truth the more she drinks to try and drown out her problems. It’s a hellacious cycle of self-loathing.
Young Adult is a dark comedy that provides us with a look at the woman version of a man-child. Too often do we get to see men playing these roles with lots of cheap laughs and jokes, despite the ugly intentions of the character. But now we get to see a woman play the role and Charlize Theron captures that same ugliness and filth just as good, if not better, than most men. She becomes such a disturbed human being by the end of the film, but at the same time you never lose track of why you kind of care for her.
You generally want the best for her, but you know that’s not possible without burning down a few bridges. Still, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody do their best to keep you from judging Mavis. Instead, you’re left simply watching her struggle and only hoping that it gets better in the long run.
The 1080p video transfer is another knockout from Paramount. The film might not look all that clean and pristine, but there’s never a dull moment. Dirty streets and grimy bars are given an extra layer of clarity, which only helps put you into the world of Mavis that much quicker. Colors often feel flat and lifeless, but very natural and on track with the films tone.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track doesn’t ever remind you that you’re watching the film on surround sound, but hey, not all comedies need to be active and dynamic. The film relies on its dialogue, which comes out of the front channels. The back channels are primarily for added effects whenever the characters are interacting in bars or out in the street.
Young Adult doesn’t come with a lot of special features, but the ones on the disc are rather extensive and well-worth the time to watch. Here’s a full list below:
- Audio Commentary
- Misery Loves Company: The Making of Young Adult (HD)
- The Awful Truth: Deconstructing a Scene (HD)
- Q&A Featuring Janet Maslin & Jason Reitman at the Jacob Burns Film Center (HD)
- Deleted Scenes (HD)
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
Young Adult is proof that Diablo Cody has progressed as a writer. Those of you scared that Young Adult is simply Juno, but darker and R-rated will rest happy knowing that Young Adult is very much its own thing. Some of the scattered dialogue feels a little out of place and forceful, but most of it makes sense and pertains to the setting and tone of the film. Jason Reitman doesn’t do much behind the lens to remind you of his credit, but he shoots the film to the best of his ability.
The film’s trademark is actress Charlize Theron, who completely embodies Mavis and shows you that attractive woman can be just as sick and perverted as grown men. Her portrayal of Mavis is honest and depressing while still showing signs of hope. Her co-star Patton Oswalt also deserves a pat on the back for his dramatic supporting role. Oswalt gives a career-best performance that blends his comedic talent well with such a broken character. Both help the film out in the long run.
My only overall complaint is the ending of the film, which really left a bad taste in my mouth. Luckily the package is rock-solid with a strong video transfer and a serviceable audio track. The special features also help numb the initial feeling of disappointment with the films ending and failure of achieving any sort of closure whatsoever.
I’d cautiously rent the film, depending on your tastes and ability to withstand one of the most vile female characters to grace the screen in the past few years.
Young Adult is worth a watch for Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt alone. So what if Diablo Cody's writing doesn't land 100% of the time?