Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: Young Adult

It's not often that I see a film I think entirely missed the mark.  Most times there is at least one aspect of the film that will recommend it to me in some small way.  Unfortunately, even though it boasts quite a few actors and behind the scenes players whose work I quite enjoy, I cannot say many nice things about Young Adult.

Mavis Gary Crane (played for all she's worth by Charlize Theron) is a woman in her late thirties who simply cannot get her life together.  It has been nearly fifteen years since she left her hometown of Mercury, MN for the big city and bright lights of Minneapolis and she has spent that time ghost writing a series of young adult novels.  Over the course of the film we come to find that not only do Mavis' novels have little or no substance, so too is Mavis almost entirely void of worth of any kind.  Reeling from the disappointment of finding out her series of novels (and thus her only means of income) are coming to an end, and prompted by a birth announcement from an old flame, Mavis travels home intent on stealing Buddy (Patrick Wilson) away from his wife, Beth (Elizabeth Reaser).

One would hope with a premise like this Mavis would come to some sort of revelation (even if it happened to be that she liked her own life in Minneapolis better and that she has no problems with who she is).  The film seems to be building towards that type of resolution but ultimately falls flat with what I think amounts to a non-ending and a disappointing resolution.  My concern is not with the idea that Mavis doesn't grow as a person, certainly we've seen many films in which the protagonist goes on living their lives as before, but that the film itself is framed in such a way that you expect this resolution and when it's not carried out (or even wholeheartedly shucked) you are left disappointed and wondering why you wasted two hours watching the antics of a few bland characters.  It feels as though Cody was attempting something along the lines of what Woody Allen does successfully in Vicky Cristina Barcelona: Penelope Cruz' character is absolutely 100% crazy but she's so compelling you can't take your eyes off her and you're absolutely relieved when you realize that she and Bardem will go on living their lives as insanely and passionately as they did before the film began.

Cody is working with some interesting concepts and characters which, had they been better fleshed out, might have caught my interest and Theron has definitely made the character her own but there's nothing compelling about Mavis, or any of the other characters in the end.  Ultimately I think the film would have benefited from a few gut checks along the way of their 30 day shoot.  I can't say that I was surprised when I found out that this film was squeezed in between two of Reitman's other films as it does feel a little rushed and like it lacks much of the substance which made Juno one of my favourite films of 2007.

I know that others around here feel very differently about the film and I'm interested to see what Matt has to say on the matter.

My rating: 2 out of 4.

1 comment:

  1. Charlize Theron has never been my favourite actress. She is featured in Woody Allen's undeniably worst film (The Curse of the Jade Scorpion) and seems content to bait Oscar voters every fall. The only film of hers I really like is "Two Days in the Valley" - which isn't even that good!

    I wanted to watch Theron play an all out, irredeemable bitch under the guidance of Jason Reitman (as I love all his films) and with the words of Diablo Cody. She didn't disappoint me at all. She was perfectly cast as a woman barely hanging on to the memories of high school. Mavis went from prom queen to an alcoholic has-been (rhyme!).

    I didn't want Mavis to find herself or to have a sudden moment of clarity. She is in her late thirties and she has already carved her identity. She is stuck. There was no way that Mavis could return to her hometown - intent on stealing back her old boyfriend - and suddenly realize that her entire adult life has been a sham and a waste of time.

    I don't like Mavis and I would never be her friend. But, for me, she is compelling. I loved watching the mess she made for herself. She randomly has sex with Matt, and it doesn't feel like Mavis (or the film) is selling out. It was like she sort of realized her life was a fuck up and for a brief second it bothered her, but once the buzz wore off she didn't care and she'll keep steamrolling on.

    Young Adult was not what I expected it to be. I thought it would be a little wittier and more biting. It really is all about Charlize Theron, and she was fantastic.