Thursday, December 29, 2011

Young Adult (Review)

P.S. Is this not the coolest movie poster... well ever? Tori Leavitt and Amanda Mitchell could back me up on this without a doubt... Right?

BREIFLY: Writer Diablo Cody and Director Jason Reitman (both of Juno fame) bring us Young Adult, a fiercely dark and remarkably authentic character study with headier content than Juno but far less gravitas or poignancy than Up in the Air. In truth, Young Adult might be Jason Reitman’s boldest film yet—yes even more than Thank You for Not Smoking. His aim here is not to create empathy for the self-absorbed thirty-something novelist, played to perfection by Charlize Theron. Rather, Reitman is concerned with portrayal under the scrutiny of a sincere if sometimes harsh lens. Yes we feel for the shallow Theron, but we also simultaneously hate her. In the end, Young Adult is precisely the kind of film you don’t want to model your life after—so yes you should probably see it.

DETAILED REVIEW: Jason Reitman’s career has been of interesting note. He crafts films that are uniquely American yet somehow manages to add just enough quirks that they seem otherworldly. Juno is one example as is Up in the Air. We know his characters and yet we don’t know them at all. Young Adult is no different as Charlize Theron is “that” girl in high school we all hated even though we secretly wanted to be her. You remember her: good looks, rockin' bod, hot jock boyfriend, popular, cheer captain, etc. She was the type of girl that was the physical manifestation of the Ms. Spears song “If You Seek Amy.” (listen to the'lll agree). At the end of the day you couldn’t help but want to be her—even if it meant you’d be labeled a bitch. This is exactly what Thereon channels as the Y.A. novelist Mavis Gary who goes back to her hometown in hopes of swooning back her old love flame Buddy (he was of course the aforementioned high school jock).

Thereon plays the thirty-something shallow woman with such ease that you come to accept her as Mavis. With a character like Mavis it’s easy to see how Theron could move beyond reality into straight tongue-in-cheek slapstick, but she manages to weigh her character down with an honesty that’s so harsh it cuts to the bone—thus revealing a character more insecure than she’d ever admit. Past her prime with her “Waverly Place” young adult fiction franchise, Mavis clings to her success while simultaneously degrading it. She’s bipolar in regards to her so-called “fame,” and would rather get drunk and loaded than sell books.

It’s also of note that Theron’s appearance changes faster than a diaper at KinderCare. In one moment, Theron is the ultimate femme fatale only to wilt in the next shot to a hung-over hag that even Zach Galifinakis would pass on. She deserves credit here as well, because as her looks change so does the acting. It’s deft, without being overt. It’s a well-crafted character that is memorable to say the least. Theron definitely deserves an Academy Award nomination for her work here and should have no problem garnering it either.

Mavis of course can’t help herself and throws herself at Buddy who is now happily married with a child. Buddy shuns Mavis, but because she was the “It-girl” in high school she reasons it’s because Buddy is insecure about himself. When he tells her he’s married she responds, “We can beat this together.” It’s that type of dialogue that typifies the film while revealing both Mavis’ superficiality as well as her brutal honesty.

Though it’s definitely nowhere as good as Reitman’s Juno or Up in The Air, Young Adult is the type of film Hollywood only dares to make, but rarely ever does. This is again because we can’t really enjoy watching the hometown high school has-been disintegrate, but we also don’t want her to suceed—not entirely at least. It’s really a movie about an antihero trying to be something more, something better: The Hero! Yet in doing so we and also she discovers it’s not only blonds that have more fun, its bitches too.   


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