Movie review – Growing up is hard to do

2012-04-13 09:08

Film: Young Adult (UIP)
Director: Jason Reitman
Featuring: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt and Elizabeth Reaser
Rating: 7/10

It’s taken writer Diablo Cody five years, but she’s finally written a film script that is a worthy descendant of her debut, Juno.

It’s also reunites her with her Juno director, Ivan Reitman, who most recently made Up in the Air.

He’s a young director who hasn’t put a foot wrong since he made his debut with Thank You for Smoking.

Young Adult continues with Cody’s theme of maturity – though in this case, it’s the lack of it in her protagonist.

Again Cody explores our experiences and reproduces them with a twist on screen.

Charlize Theron is spot-on as Mavis Gary, a writer of young adult fiction who, it turns out, is so easily able to tap into the teenager’s psyche because she’s never grown out of her own.

Theron slouches and sulks, chews gum insolently and thinks the universe revolves around her.

Basically, she channels a teenage girl. Mavis is the teenager that Juno never could have imagined being.

After the failure of her marriage, the emotionally stunted Mavis heads to her one-horse home town intending to rekindle the long burnt out romance with her high school boyfriend, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson).

Buddy has no idea what’s about to come his way. He’s happily married and facing up to the challenge of fatherhood. Both things are beyond Mavis’ ken, and that becomes hilariously and uncomfortably clear pretty quickly.

While hunting down Buddy, Mavis comes across another bloke she was at school with, Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), who was severely beaten up by a bunch of jocks behind the football field.

Mavis is so self-absorbed and focused on her mission, she barely registers her own part in Matt’s traumatic childhood.

If the audience still needs a clue about Mavis’ sociopathic tendencies – this is it. Physically broken Matt takes pity on emotionally broken Mavis and tries to stop her from self-destructing – or at least tries to stop her doing it in public. His success is patchy at best.

Cody’s story is clever and disorientating because it bucks against any attempts to pigeonhole it.

Just when you think there might be a whisper of romance, it gets whisked away. Just when you think Mavis might have grown emotionally, she takes puerile to new lows.

Just when you think you might get a happy ending, well, don’t bank on it (but then again, don’t rule it out).

It all depends on what point of view you look at the outcome from.

Young Adult is an unusual, funny, often cringeworthy exploration of how we learn from our experiences (or don’t) and proof that the past is best left where it is (or not).

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