Review: YOUNG ADULT (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Review: YOUNG ADULT (2011)


Reuniting for the first time since they first collaborated successfully in 2007's Oscar-winning JUNO, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody's much-anticipated follow-up titled YOUNG ADULT looks promising enough -- a character-driven dramedy centers on a messed-up and despicable female writer revisits her past in attempt to rekindle her long-lost relationship with his ex- high school lover. Marketed as a comedy, YOUNG ADULT turns out to be a hoot. Instead it's more of a pitch-black comedy and a gloomily unappealing melodrama which fails squarely on its overall execution.

The messed-up and despicable female writer in question is Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), who made a successful career for ghostwriting a series of popular YA (young adult, that is) novels. And twenty years ago, she was once the most popular girl in school. However, her current life as a 37-year-old loner isn't as rosy as before. She's divorced, drinks a lot, lives in a gloomy apartment and now she's on the verge of a career breakdown as her writing contract is about to end with bad sales record.

Then one day she receives an e-mail invitation to a baby shower from his ex-high school lover Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). Once upon a time, Mavis and Buddy used to be happy together but now Buddy is married to Beth (Elizabeth Reaser). They now have their first child and eager to celebrate the new arrival with friends and family. But instead of feeling happy for him, Mavis desperately wants to sweep Buddy away from his marriage life and convinced there can be together again.

And so she drives back to her small Minnesota hometown, where she has an unexpected reunion with Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), the former high-school classmate who used to be a victim of bullying incident. Matt warns her to forget about Buddy and moves on with her current life, but Mavis is stubborn enough not to listen and continues to pursue her happiness to win him back.

As a pitch-black comedy, the movie is rarely funny. Worst of all, Diablo Cody's screenplay is overly dour with lack of personality sorely missed in her previous writing efforts. Everything feels like a slow-moving slog that drags on and on., especially with all the surprisingly static pace. It doesn't help either when the main protagonist, Mavis Gary, is depicted as an unsympathetic figure. Don't get me wrong, Charlize Theron is pitch-perfect and stunning enough for this kind of bitchy role but it's a shame that Reitman and Cody fail to inject the necessary sympathy to make her character more humane. Throughout the movie, from the beginning until the end, you will discover that Mavis Gary is like a flatliner -- the same old psychotic and delusional bitch who hardly changes a bit. I wouldn't be surprised if viewers will shout, "That's it?" With unsatisfying payoff, no wonder YOUNG ADULT is a colossal misfire.

But as unappealing as this movie is, YOUNG ADULT does benefits from a particularly involving supporting actor. I'm talking about the underrated Patton Oswalt, who steals the show with a poignant performance as Matt Freehauf. His scenes with Charlize Theron are especially meaningful, especially when he gives his sympathetic voice of reason about being realistic and not living in the past.

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