By Gary Murray


Starring and Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson and Patton Oswalt


Written by Diablo Cody


Directed by Jason Reitman


Running time 94 min


MPAA Rating R


Selig Film Rating Cable


Jason Reitman is a young director who has had some impressive credentials.  His films Thank You for Smoking, Juno and Up in the Air have garnered Oscar nods and been praised by critics near and far.  His latest is another dark turn and is called Young Adult.


The story of Young Adult is of Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron).  She is a writer living in a high-rise with her little dog.  She has a gig where she pens young adult fiction, continuing the series of another writer.  She gets the paychecks, just not the respect.  And like all writers in the fictional world, she has a bit of a problem with alcohol.


After another one night stand, she decides to go back to her roots and heads back to her little small town.  It seems that her old beau Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) has recently sent out a group e-mail about the birth of his first child.   She gets it into her head that Buddy is the man she should be with, the one that got away.  Marriage be damned, she is going to win him back.


At a local bar in her little hometown, she runs into Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), a guy she went to high school with and had a locker next to hers.  He walks with a crutch.  Back in school, he was beaten within an inch of his life by football jocks.  Through the lip loosening compounds of hard liquor, she tells him of her plan.  He is appalled by the idea but much like a train wreck, he cannot look away from the carnage.


The slight story is of a load of drinking and Buddy and Mavis reconnecting.  Everyone except Mavis can see what is going to happen in the end.  It is a cliché but ‘you can’t go home again’.


The writer of Young Adult is Diablo Cody, the Oscar winner for Juno.  The major aspect that Juno had that Young Adult lacks is heart.  Where we cared about the characters of Juno, a young girl caught in a bad situation.  Here Mavis just doesn’t generate any sympathies.  She was a horrible teenager and is now a horrible woman.  Yes, there is this big reveal (that is not much of a surprise) that is the 99 cent explanation of the how and why of her bitterness, it just feels a bit disingenuous.


The other problem with the writing is with motivation of character.  Without giving away a plot point, Patton Oswalt’s character does something at the end that feels like a major stretch from the character arc.  A man in his late 30’s would have enough sense not to do what the character does.  It feels phony.   The ending makes no sense with no one learning anything and everything going back to a square one without any progress.


To be honest, I believe that the superlative praises for Jason Reitman have been just a bit too much.  Yes, he shows talents as a director but his films are all a scattershot with elements of comedy and tragedy going all over the place.  In Young Adult, there are moments of great humor slammed next to moments of morose sadness.  It is almost a psychotic experience.


Patton Oswalt proves once again that he is a tremendous talent.  Much like his role in Big Fan, this is the kind of a performance that should make some ‘best of’ lists.  He is a bitter man who accepts his lot in life with a smooth bit of bile.  This is a role that should put him on the character actor ‘A’ list.


Charlize Theron delivers a strong performance with Mavis, showing the character as an exposed wire.  It is a gutsy move to play a person with little to no positive aspects, but somehow she still finds some sympathies in the reading.  It is an amazing performance by this woman, the kind that Oscar voters love to laud.


Young Adult is not what one expects.  It is not what is billed—a raucous comedy.  There are moments of comedy but like real life, it is wrapped in a very sad blanket.  For those who want their comedy served with a heavy dose of sadness, Young Adult is your film.




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