Young Adult (2011)
Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt and others
Young Adult is the third feature written by Diablo Cody whose work I've admired since seeing Juno (also directed by Jason Reitman). Initially I was wary of Juno as the trailer made it look like a sacharine team comedy, but I was glad I decided to watch it as Cody's dialogue coupled with Ellen Page's punchy performance really won me over. I also really rate Cody's horror movie, Jennifer's Body. It was terrific fun, again there was the brilliant dialogue and it showed an awareness of the horror genre that imbued it with a sharp intellegence. Cody is the main reason I'm looking forward to the Evil Dead remake.
In many ways, Young Adult is a more restrained, darker film that Cody's previous two pictures. Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary, a writer of Young Adult high-school romances who, in the midst of struggling to start her latest novel, finds out that her old high-school flame is has become a father. Clearly on the verge of a fairly severe mental crisis, Mavis decides to return to her home town and win back the heart of her ex. Once back home she meets a fellow class-mate, Matt Freehauf (Patrick Oswalt) who received a near fatal beating in his high-school years for being an alleged homosexual. To some degree Matt tries to steer Mavis back onto the right path, but Mavis lives in a pure fantasy world and she is her own worst enemy.
Everything about this film works. The cast is terrific, the direction is well-handled and the soundtrack is pitch perfect. Charlize Theron handles the dark comedy with a smoky, acerbic wit that - despite her actions - never has you thinking of her as a psychotic prom queen bitch, as one character calls her. Patton Oswalt is also brilliant as Matt. A geek who has never been allowed to grow up and who shows something like real compassion to Mavis, a character so much more broken than he. There are plenty of laughs here, but, as I said, this is a dark movie, indeed, a black comedy. There are moments you're going to watch through your fingers as Mavis goes off the rails. As an aside, there are also terrific small comic touches in the movie. The fact that the rock band fronted by first time mothers is called Nipple Confusion is priceless (Diablo Cody can be seen wearing a Nipple Confusion sweater in the making-of documentary on the DVD).
Cody is coming on leaps and bounds as a screen-writer, scripting some of the funniest and darkest movies of recent years. I'd go so far as to say she is a great comedy writer and Young Adult shows that her star is very much still on the rise.
(8 out of 10)
Like Jon, I loved Juno. I was nervous about putting it on our lovefilm list as it was then we were going through IVF. When we visited my uni best mate in Lancaster, she had a copy so we watched it there. I loved it and I can't tell you how many times towards the end of being pregnant with Maia, I watched the ending.
Theron relishes her role in Young Adult, a woman who writes young adult fiction but really hasn't grown up, still a young adult herself - she can be very selfish, very naive, used to getting her own way, wearing Hello Kitty tshirts, carrying her dog in her handbag, and sleeping in til noon. She dosen't take very good care of herself and her flat resembles a teenager's bedroom. There is a twist I was not expecting as to why she never really grew up and her friendship with Matt strikes you as natural from the start as they both went through trauma at high school that turned their worlds upside down.
Patrick Wilson seems to be making a living out of playing the handsome, understanding husband and there is more to him, having seen Hard Candy but he probably got recommended by his co-star, Ellen Page, star of Juno. The film encyclpedia in me took a while to recognise Jill Eikenberry, who plays Mavis's mum. She got ditched at the altar by Dudley Moore in Arthur.
Hugely enjoyable, a fine cast and very well written. I hope the director/writer collaboraiton of Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody continues. I can't think of any famous ones; I can think of actor/director (Tim Burton/Johnny Depp) and actor/composer ones (Steven Spielberg/John Williams). Correct me if I'm wrong! Reitman grew up watching his dad make Ghostbusters and Dave and he directs with an assured hand. Cody is enormously talented and inspires me to get my own pen out and the Evil Dead remake will need to be a date night for us.
(7 out of 10)