Young Adult * * *


Director: Jason Reitman.
Screenplay: Diablo Cody.
Starring: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser, Mary Beth Hurt, Collette Wolfe, Jill Eikenberry, Richard Bekins, Emily Meade, Brady Smith, Louisa Krause, Jenny Dare Paulin, John Forest, J.K. Simmons.

Following the success of their previous collaboration “Juno“, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody reunite to bring us another slice of small-town American life. Whether or not is as good as their last outing, depends on your expectations.

Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a pathological, self-absorbed bitch. She’s already divorced, and dependent on alcohol as she tries to maintain her job as a ghost-writer for a failing series of adolescent books. Having received an e-mail, one day, of news of her ex-boyfriend Buddy (Patrick Wilson) becoming a new father, she heads for her home town determined to reclaim him back from his wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser) and newborn baby. Mavis will stop at nothing but ultimately, it’s herself that she’s harming most.

Since her Oscar winning role in “Monster” in 2003, Charlize Theron has had a couple of notable roles but nothing she could really sink her teeth into. This, however, is the best role she’s had since then. It’s a character she grabs with the scruff of the neck and delivers an excellent and potent performance. Other than her though, I didn’t find much else to write home about. Maybe this was because my expectations were too high.? I really enjoyed “Juno” for it’s likeable characters and quirky sense of humour and I expected much of the same here but there’s very little humour involved. It’s actually more of a down-beat character study, dealing with failed aspirations, depression and a path of self destruction. It doesn’t make for happy viewing and also doesn’t shed much of a positive light on the choices the characters have made in life. To achieve happiness in life is a matter of relevance. At least, that’s what I think the message was supposed to be but it could have at least had a character that embodied this. Sure, Buddy and Beth seem like a happy couple on the surface but there’s a bit of ambiguity involved. Patton Oswalt delivers some light comic relief as Mavis’ new friend and drinking buddy Matt but despite some lighthearted moments from him, he’s also quite a tragic character. What chance have you got, when your comic-relief is even struggling in life? As I mentioned, maybe if I was prepared for the down-beat approach beforehand, I’d have settled more into this. It’s not a bad film, by any means, but it is a bit sluggish and disheartening.

I’ve heard this described as a ‘tragi-comedy’. It’s a good description but I think the emphasis is on the former rather than the latter.Theron is on excellent form and the real highlight here but the material is a little tough to swallow. It has moments of brilliance but too few to fully satisfy.

Mark Walker


18 Responses to “Young Adult * * *”

  1. yaykisspurr Says:

    This is on my to see list as no one would go see it with me when it came out. I heard that it’s basically a character study as you suggested, though you said it more succinctly, which I appreciate. Funny you still gave it a 3. Cheers. 🙂


  2. I loved Young Adult, but I can understand what you felt was missing. Yes, it is very tragic but I actually found it very funny as well. Charlize Theron was spectacular. Cody’s writing and her performance made me even sympathize with this huge bitch, which is no easy feat. Theron was absolutely magnetic. Her behavior was so awkward but I couldn’t look away.


    • I think Theron’s performance made this film better than it was. Don’t get me wrong, there was some astute details that couldn’t be ignored but without Theron, this film would have suffered. I might go as far to say, that this is my favourite performance from Charlize Theron.


      • It’s not my favorite, but definitely top 3 along with Monster and North Country. She’s such a talent. And an unbelievable beauty.


      • I would probably class this as Theron’s finest show. She was superb in both Monster and North Country but I really enjoyed her in this. Why didn’t she receive at least a nomination? Criminal!


  3. I found something lacking too, but I loved the acting and the dialogue, so I’m not exactly sure what was missing. I agree with Fernando that Theron was totally magnetic as a superbitch.
    Not sure if you caught my review:


  4. I really liked this movie and considered it one of the best flicks of 2011. I don’t know what it was that got me going with this film so much, either the performances from Oswalt and Theron attracted me, or the screenplay by Cody, I don’t know. Something was just working here but I understand that it’s not going to be one of those perfect films everybody enjoys. Good review Mark.


    • Thanks for your comments man. For some odd reason I had a few of your comments in a spam folder. I don’t know how this happened but I think I’ve fixed it now. I appreciate any input you have and sorry if it seemed I was ignorant.


      • No worries man. I hear that I’m in like everybody’s spam folder. Do you know how the hell I can get that to stop? Because it’s pretty obvious that I’m not a spammer.


      • Ive got no idea how you stop it. I just happened to have a look and noticed I had to approve your comments. However, that last comment you made came through okay. I don’t what’s going on.


  5. She SHOULD have been nominated for Best Actress this year. Maybe instead of Glenn Close. Then again, some other great performances were left out, like Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene and of course Tilda in WNTTAK.


    • I feel that Olivia Colman from TYRANNOSAUR, was the best performance from a female actress last year. However, Theron and Tilda were definitely as good as any of the nominees. (I still haven’t seen Streep in THE IRON LADY though)


  6. Tracie Wilde Says:

    From a womans point of view, this was very poignant. A 37 year old woman who lost a baby to this guy when she was with him is a trigger for a deep crisis for a woman of that age who no longer can concieve as a result. Unfortunatly the movie industry and male reviwers fail to recognise the position of women in society and just label the neurotic or pathalogical. Your analysis of her overdrinking and such would perhaps be self medication taking into acount of where shes at… I thought it was very moving as a mother I could not imagine this pain and the fact that she was a ghost writer for young peoples books adds to that. Think ye missed the poin mark shove yer cock out the way when yer trying to be objective mate!


    • I take your valid point on board Tracie. I may well be guilty of seeing this from a male perspective and omitting an important plot point from my review was only to save spoiling the film for those that haven’t seen it yet. However, your correct, Theron’s character did have reasons for her behaviour but I also didn’t think the male character of Buddy was very nice or understanding either. He appeared so on the surface but showed little compassion for her plight and the character of the crippled friend Matt never became bitter towards people because of his disfigurement. Mavis was a bitter teenager before and never really changed when she reached adulthood. It’s a very good point you make though.


      • Tracie Wilde Says:

        oops mark I didnt realise that ye didnt want to spoil the film for people who havent seen it yet 😦 Now I note you gave it 4 stars also! It was full of parallel irony from all the characters and that punchline at the end made it clear. I know Matt didnt show any bitterness and appeared to be content in is bubble and Mavis was indeed bitter but just saying like.. Dig your reviews usually but this one touched on the gender issue!


      • It’s not my intention to ostracise any female readers Tracie and I welcome your points of view. I’ll be sure to be a bit more careful (or clearer) on any gender issues that may arise in further reviews. I just found the film a little disheartening when really there seemed like very little hope for any of the characters but I supposed it was a good drama where people are only human and everyone has their flaws. Males included.


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