Young Adult

Review: Young Adult

01 Feb 12

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Director Jason Reitman was born to succeed. In his youth he would have had access to some of the funniest movie sets and best comedic minds of the 80's and 90's. His education was to watch the creation of modern classics such as Meatballs, Ghost Busters, Stripes & Kindergarten Cop. As if that wasn't enough, at the end of each day his father, Ivan Reitman (the outre producer behind these films), would have offered his best directorial and comedic film making devices over the dinner table. Although Jason's comedic pedigree is strong, he has embraced his own distinctive, quirky story telling style. He exploded onto the screens in 2005 with his exceptional debut feature 'Thankyou for Smoking', followed closely by the cult sensation 'Juno'. With every film that Jason produces, he seems to grow in both sophistication and confidence. His 2009 feature 'Up in the Air' allowed him to do away the reputation of just being Ivan's son, giving him freedom to stand alone in a career that will surely equal if not surpass his father.

Today's film, and his latest, 'Young Adult' is another solid step forward for Jason and the Reitman family filmography. This time he has revived his successful partnership with the Juno writer, the free spirited former stripper, Diablo Cody. Set in Middle America, this dark comedy gives us the story of Ghost writer, Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), as she battles to complete a series of young adult novels. In search of inspiration, she decides to head back to her home town Mercury. Upon arrival, it's clear her motives for returning are directed towards a former flame, Buddy (Patrick Wilson), the only problem being that he has moved on with a wife and child, seemingly only a small bump in the road for Mavis.

Charlize Theron's Mavis Gary is both absorbing and irritating. Generally, I've found Reitman's protagonists are relatable in some way or another, but with Mavis any likeability was fleeting. Instead we are left with a self-absorbed woman in her mid-30's, devoid of any real adult emotions, seemingly one tick away from institutional commitment. That, cocktailed with a significant case of alcoholism, leads to a spectacular train wreck seen coming by all except herself. These days it's a gamble to have your main character be so blatantly anti-social. With all the audience testing and big studio input, I'm surprised she made it to screen. Even with all her failings I'm sure glad she did. Charlize Theron's performance needed to be good to redeem Mavis's character and that it certainly was. She carried the film like the true star she is, the subtlety in her comic delivery melts away any sour feelings I may have had of Mavis. Plus, as psychopathic and distorted as her character was, she still looks as stunning as ever.