Young Adult - Blu-Ray Edition - Review
Paramount Home Entertainment
By Alex Young
Anyone expecting “Young Adult” to be a predictable formulaic romantic comedy is bound to be caught off guard. Anyone willing to give this film a chance might be surprised to see the movie’s delivery and execution allow it to incorporate interesting material that’s typically foreign to films to that genre.
Director Jason Reitman is certainly no stranger to unlikely protagonists that are despicable on the surface but are often fragile on the inside. Reitman’s reputation for creating character studies of complex people with confidence and equally cunning problems has grown steadily over the last several years. Anyone searching for a worthy example of Reitman’s work should look no further than the slyly humorous “Thank You for Smoking” about a silver-tongued tobacco lobbyist trying to teach his twelve-year old son about morality. “Up in the Air” is about a man that’s so isolated by his job (that requires him to fire people for a living) it prevents him from finding anything that can cure him of his loneliness. “Young Adult” is no exception to the other components within Reitman’s catalogue, but it’s definitely outside of being typical or par for the course.
The film centers on the turbulent life of Mavis Gary, a moderately successful author trying to finish the final installment in the series of teenage romance novels she’s semi-famous for writing. When Mavis isn’t working on trying to re-hash her youth she’s busy having one-night stands and bar shots as she tries to forget about the fresh ink on her divorce certificate. Mavis decides to visit her hometown of Mercury Minnesota where she runs into old friends from high school, her parents, and her ex-boyfriend that’s now married with a newborn daughter. As she desperately searches for inspiration for her final novel, Mavis is secretly searching for happiness while procrastinating about her mid-life crisis as she lusts to be loved and find meaning in her life.
Charlize Theron champions her role as Mavis while she emotionally moves through her character’s constantly shifting outlook on life that often changes course during a single sentence. Patton Oswalt delivers an incredibly endearing performance as Matt Freehauf, the only character that seems to develop a connection with Mavis by sharing a mutually exclusive pessimistic view of life despite being more in touch with reality than she is. Reitman’s real success with “Young Adult” is that he proves he’s crafting a cinematic style that’s becoming defiantly unique by presenting human dramas disguised as comedy while revealing much more than meets the eye.
“Young Adult” is not something that will captivate many viewers due to the layered characters, as well as the fact that Theron’s portrayal of Mavis is meant to be anything but charming. It is unmistakably tough to shake off the fact that you feel like you’ve known certain characters in the film for years while you’re watching these emotional situations unravel one after another. Some of these characters feel like they are people you might have shared a locker with in high school, a dorm during college, or dated after meeting a party.
The biggest deterrent of “Young Adult” is the simple fact that it’s a victim of misleading marketing. Despite the arsenal of talent in front of the camera as well as behind it, this film was advertised as a comedy, which would reduce it to popcorn entertainment in many people’s minds. Unfortunately, that first impression can cause the film to be easily misunderstood, because aside from a few black comedic moments, the film searches to be something so much more than that and finds some success. There is no morale to the end of “Young Adult”, it’s an observation on people that can’t decide between trying to find the strength to change or embracing who they are, scars and all.