Young Adult

Directed By: Jason Reitman

Starring: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, and Patton Oswalt

When I first heard of Jason Reitman's Young Adult, I got pretty excited.  With great films like Up In the Air and Juno on this guy's resume, I figured we were in for a real treat.  Those black comedies that Reitman's has done in the past have a great blend of humor and drama.  Given this, I expected more of that same good stuff in Young Adult, especially considering that Charlize Theron is starring in the film.  However, the movie was a little heavier than I thought it would be.  I was looking for a few more laughs out of Young Adult than I actually got.

Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is an author of teen literature who lives in the Twin Cities.  She's divorced.  She lives alone, and she's obsessed with her ex-boyfriend from high school Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson).  She's convinced that they're meant to be together despite the fact that he's currently married.  After reading an announcement about the birth of Buddy's daughter, Mavis decides to pay her former lover a visit in the small town where they grew up and try win him back despite the small obstacles that Buddy is in a loving marriage and is a dutiful father.  Meanwhile, Mavis is using elements of her own life to write her next installment in a popular teen book series for which she is the author.

Maintaining the right blend of seriousness and humor in a black comedy is one of the trickiest challenges in making a film of this sort.  If you go too far one way or the other in a black comedy, you'll have a film that's either too dark or too light.  It's hard to make gems like Little Miss Sunshine or Sideways, and Jason Reitman handily proves this by going way too dark in Young Adult.  There were a few laughs during the film, but there were no really funny moments outside of what's in the trailer for the movie.

Charlize Theron really doesn't have comedic chops and makes Mavis Gary a really depressing character overall.  Mavis is a train-wreck with some real mental issues, and Reitman lets this crazy chick drag the tone of the film downward way too much.  The saving grace of this film is that Theron has the chops to keep the audience's attention with some powerful acting.

I have a couple of other bones to pick with Young Adult.  First, it plays on clichés a bit too much, specifically the theme of the small town versus the big city.  Let's be real.  This film is in the middle of nowhere in either Minnesota or Wisconsin, and the big city to which the characters are constantly referring is Minneapolis.  I like Minneapolis as much as the next guy.  I also understand that the only cities they have up there in that part of the Midwest are the Twin Cities, but playing on this cliché and glorifying Minneapolis gets old quickly. 

Second, the writing is a bit unrealistic at times with specific regard to Mavis' parents played by Jill Eikenberry and Richard Bekins.  Are her parents really just going to idly stand by and watch their daughter mentally unravel for everyone in that small town to see?  Her pursuit of Buddy is insane, and anyone can see that.  Having her parents call Mavis' name a few times while she's going nuts isn't going to do crap.  Screenwriter Diablo Cody, you really dropped the ball on this one. It's too late for Young Adult, but step up and do your job better next time.

Theron's Mavis Gary has many, many issues.  Among them, she's a bit of n alcoholic.  For a film like Young Adult, I encourage an interactive viewing experience because you'll need a drink or two.  Because I like the flick, I wouldn't go a far as Mavis to downing shots, but I would definitely have a few beers throughout the flick.  Young Adult gets a 0.06% rating.