While I fully respect Jason Reitman for having the ability to uniquely and beautifully put moving images on the big screen, he’s got to quit making Diablo Cody’s screenplays into movies. He’s better than that. It’s time for him to leave her too-cool-for-school overrated scripts behind and get back to making more movies like ‘Thank You For Smoking’ and ‘Up in the Air‘ – the brilliant stuff. With ‘Young Adult’, Cody has once again dragged him down to producing a well-made waste of time.
In a comedic drama, you expect a reasonable amount of believability from the characters, story and themes. Unfortunately, while ‘Young Adult’ falls into that genre, it doesn’t deliver a single one of those things.
First, the central character Mavis (Charlize Theron) is not only unlikable, there’s not a single person so daft, self-absorbed or insanely stupid on the face of the Earth without serious mental health issues – which is not the way she’s portrayed nor the issue at hand. If you’ve seen the first twenty seconds of the trailer, you’ve gotten a taste for the absurdity of the character. If you thought that scene was dumb, that’s only the beginning. It gets worse.
Mavis is a ghost writer for a series of fading young adult (or Y.A.) novels from the small fictional town of Mercury, Minnesota. (Great job metaphorically telling us the town is poison, Diablo. Learn that in Screenwriting 101?) Now living in the “Mini Apple,” Minneapolis, she’s become a directionless drunk with writer’s block. When her high school sweetheart Buddy (Patrick Wilson) emails her a picture of his newborn child, Mavis slips into a depression, because she realizes that he’s living the life they dreamed of as innocent teenagers – only with another woman.
For some unclear reason, Mavis believes that if she returns to Mercury, Buddy will instantly fall in love with her the moment he sets eyes on her again. Then the two can run off together, leave their jobs and families behind to live happily ever after. In her mind, it’s that easy.
When they finally meet up, Buddy shows absolutely no interest in reconnecting with her, and constantly mentions how much he loves his wife and baby. Yet Mavis is somehow convinced that he wants to run off with her. It’s not like there are mixed signals here or anything; she’s just bat-shit crazy. From there, the entire thing spins out of control and eventually crashes and burns. What’s the moral of the story, the purpose of this film? Who knows? It’s never clear. Most importantly, who cares?
Fortunately, besides Reitman’s directing, ‘Young Adult’ has one other redeeming quality: Patton Oswalt. On Mavis’ first night back in town, she slips off to a small bar to feed her alcoholism and runs into an old schoolmate (Oswalt) who was severely beaten during senior year and left using crutches to get around. Oswalt is the source of all the truly worthy laughs during ‘Young Adult’. He’s the only actor who isn’t trying to play out the “cool” factor of Cody’s characters. It’s like he leaped off the stage of one of his comedy shows, as opposed to one of the pages of Cody’s hipster scripts – and he’s hilarious.
Just like Reitman is better than Cody, you are better than ‘Young Adult’. Don’t listen to the pretentious hipster reviews out there that call it a “mature new direction for Cody” where she “refreshingly dives into mind of a misanthropic female antihero.” It’s crap. Pure douchebaggery.