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Young Adult


Jeff Nelson

Young Adult isn't for everybody, but is a well-crafted character study that dares to be a bit different and does a damn good job at it.

Young Adult
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The initial reaction I received from the trailer of Young Adult was another awkward comedy written by the creative Diablo Cody. I believe that the trailers misled a lot of audiences, which led to very mixed reactions. Everybody was expecting a hilarious comedy, but saw something completely different. Yes, Young Adult has humor in it, but not the type of comedy that one would expect. It's dark comedy that is occasionally utilized as comic relief and used even more often to show the horrific reality that the lead must face. There's a large amount of talent not only in front of the camera, but behind it as well. As mentioned, Diablo Cody penned the screenplay, who wrote films such as Juno, and is directed by Jason Reitman. He has directed motion pictures such as Juno and Up in the Air. Fans of these two filmmakers will most likely understand what was trying to be accomplished.

Taken aback when she received a letter from an old boyfriend announcing that he's just had a baby with his wife, divorced fiction writer Mavis Gary decides to return to her small hometown and reconnect with her former lover. Sounds quite a bit like a romantic comedy, doesn't it? Well, you would be incorrect by thinking that. This is an intensely close character study of a depressed and narcissistic alcoholic who cannot get over her ex-boyfriend from high school. She's completely delusional as she thinks that her old boyfriend, Buddy Slade, is unhappy with his wife and newborn child and would want Mavis back. Moviegoers might be surprised with how unlikable her character is, but that's the point. The audience is meant to somehow like a completely unlikable character. However, her role is so explored that I felt as if I genuinely know her and somehow found quite a bit that I liked underneath all of the horrible personality traits and emotional issues of Mavis. The screenplay written by Diablo Cody is great. The dialogue is spot on and has delivered a lot more depth than one would have imagined from simply seeing the trailer or reading a synopsis. There's a lot occurring underneath the surface. This isn't your typical movie of this genre, so don't expect it to play out like one. The ending isn't very joyful and we're hit in the face with the reality of Mavis Gary's character. The humor is well-placed and doesn't hinder the emotional pacing of the film.

When I mentioned that there was talent in front of the camera as well as behind it, I wasn't kidding. Charlize Theron delivers one of the best performances of the year as Mavis Gary. She definitely got snubbed for an Oscar nomination. She captures the essence of the character to perfection. Acting doesn't get much more natural than her performance here. Starring alongside her is Patton Oswalt as the man who she made fun of back in high school, but spends a lot of time with him once she arrives back in her hometown. He's very good as Matt Freehauf. I feel that he's a bit underrated as he hasn't received very much buzz. The chemistry displayed between Oswalt and Theron is so convincing that we forget we're even watching actors interact. Patrick Wilson is pretty good as Buddy Slade as he fits the character quite well. There aren't any mediocre performances here. Each and every actor here pulls his or her weight. However, Charlize Theron most certainly shines the brightest here. She might not be the most likable character, but she delivers sky high.

Those who understand Diablo Cody's style are sure to appreciate Young Adult. However, those who aren't used to her work will be left confused with what they just watched. The main character is despicable, but there's meaning to it. By the end of the motion picture, we learn so much about the role that it feels as if we know her in person. The dark themes punch you in the stomach and leave you breathless, don't expect a light and airy comedy. This is a well-composed character study that is definitely effective. The acting hits all of the right notes and most certainly deserved more attention during award-season. I understand how Young Adult received mixed reviews. Not everybody either fully understands or appreciates having an unlikable character put on screen for us to learn about. This could have easily been an absolute disaster, but Diablo Cody, Jason Reitman, and the cast somehow made it all work out. Young Adult isn't for everybody, but is a well-crafted character study that dares to be a bit different and does a damn good job at it.

My Rating = Four Stars

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