Young Adult

December 18, 2011 5 Comments


Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a trainwreck.  Blond and beautiful, she’s ramped up on alcohol and high school fantasies and headed to her hometown to (re)claim the heart of Buddy, her ex-soulmate.  Director Justin Reitman and writer Diablo Cody (Juno and Jennifer 8) have reunited for  Young Adult, their edgy dark”comedy,” a film which ultimately falls off the track by choosing clever dialogue over darkness.  Did I just say that the movie isn’t dark enough?   And am I still making it a “must see”?  Yes.  Mavis binges on fast food, drinks hard liquor like soda, pulls out her hair a follicle at a time, sleeps around and lives  alone in near squalor in her apartment where she pounds out “young adult” novels as a ghost writer for a series about high school.  The movie begins when she receives a birth announcement from Buddy, which she interprets as a declaration of love and an invitation to liberate him from his current life with his wife and baby.  Mavis is the quintessential Mean Girl who has not evolved past her high school heyday.  Theron is compelling as the imploding Mavis, and we are fascinated by her single-minded self destructiveness and strangely capable of identifying with her.  She confides in Matt (Patton Oswald) her potential moral compass in the film as she moves forward in her plan to have Buddy.  The film serves up lots of darkness, but ultimately sputters when it backs away to safer ground (enter smart repartee), leaving us relieved but unsatisfied.  Are we supposed to want to know about the “real” nature of Mavis and Buddy’s relationship?  When we actually do know WHY she is disgusted by the sight of Buddy’s baby, what are we supposed to do with the information?  Who is responsible for a Mean Girl?  The film ultimately seems to take the responsibility from Mavis herself and point the finger at us (all the bland throngs who NEED bad behavior in others to feel worthwhile).  Interesting.  Yes.  Simplistic.  Maybe.  Funny?  I don’t think so.   A Must See Movie because people are talking about it and it does bring us close to interesting questions, even if it ultimately we don’t find the answers in “The Mini-Apple.”      Jolyn Wagner

Must See Movie of the Week
5 Comments to “Young Adult”
  1. Dave Lundin says:

    Thanks, Jolyn, for your usual insightful comments and even better, questions. I enjoyed the film and thought it funny at times, but was left ultimately confused. I liked the edgy premise of a delusionsal gorgeous women thinking she could win back her high-school sweetheart even though he is happily married and just had a baby. Home-wrecking as humor? Her crippled nerd high-school locker-mate was a great foil for her and it was ultimately interesting to see how much they actually had in common – both were not over high-school traumas. But where is she at the end of the film? Are we to feel optimistic about her as she writes of the maturing of her fictional character? Or pessimistic as she drives her wreck of a cute car, a Mini, back to Minneapolis? Is “hitting bottom” always curative, despite the depth of her delusions and substance abuse? I would be interested in what others think.

  2. Bruce Russell says:

    I haven’t seen the movie, but I just want people to know that anyone who criticizes Charlize (I call her Charlie) as an actress or a person or…well, a goddess, will have a fight on their hands. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I suggest that you see my discussion of Midnight in Paris in the Philosopher’s POV (not Corner, Dave…sheesh!)!! 🙂

  3. Brian Murphy says:

    YOUNG ADULT is decidedly not the kind of film that is a “fun” watch but leaves you PLENTY to think about: My Spousal Unit and I devoted much of our Sunday Quality Marital Time to considering the film, its back story, and especially its fascinating contrasts with JUNO. The uniquely wonderful JUNO would malke a terrific, and intellectually stimulating, contrast with YOUNG ADULT in a film course or discussion group. And Charlize Theron is as compelling onscreen as Ellen Page–though in nearly opposite ways. Diablo disturbs but still rules!

  4. If Young Adult didn’t swerve abit into the safety zone(it certainly isn’t a happy movie and Mavis may not fare any better than her crumpled mini-Cooper), I think it would be alot like “Shame” another new film(by director Steve McQueen) about a tortured soul(Michael Fassbinder) driven to self destruct in sexual obsession…many have labeled Shame as unwatchable(and slapped it with an NC-17 rating)…and empty….yet…..I liked it much better and appreciated the minimalist dialogue and graphic images(both films do have a theme song) question: which makes for a more compelling movie? And why? Is there room for both or do they both sputter in their attempt to address behaviors bound to make the audience squirm? What do you think?

  5. Bruce Russell says:

    Brandon in Shame can’t make love to nice girls because he wants to make love to his sister, which makes him ashamed of himself. Nice girls remind him of his sister, and you would have to be some kind of pervert to want to make love to your sister! So he fucks prostitutes and naughty girls, and masturbates everywhere, even in the restroom at work. Why? Well, he has strong sexual desires, and if he fucks enough women and masturbates enough, he can get rid of all that nasty semen,and thereby all of that terrible desire,that makes him want to have sex with his sister. Maybe he can even get someone to beat him up for his sexual excesses, which is just what a shameful person like him deserves! And he does, for coming onto someone’s girlfriend. Fitting punishment for a low-life like me…he thinks. But the desire won’t go away. So why not wallow in it in a threesome, like three pigs wallowing in the mud?

    Mavis, on the other hand, longs for the past when she was the prettiest and smartest girl in her high school. She has not lived up to expectations, so why not go back to the past and the good old days? Drowning herself in booze has not made her happy in the present. She was happy in the past. Maybe she can recapture that. Ultimately, she finds she can’t, and she leaves town in her dented mini-cooper hoping for something better in the future.

    Mavis is disappointed in herself; Brandon hates himself. That, I think, is why Shame is more compelling than Young Adult. There is a lot more psychic force in self-hatred than in self-disappointment. It’s the difference between a locomotive and a mini-cooper. Obviously, the one is going to cause a lot more destruction (to both self and others) than the other if the person at the wheel does not know how to control it. And that is just what happens in the two films.

Leave a Reply



Fresh from the Toronto Film Festival

The TIFF screens are darkened in Toronto. The past two weeks allowed nearly 400,00 fortunate cinephiles to view over...

First Update/Summary from the TIFF

The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival is in full swing.  Those of us fortunate enough to join the Detroit...

Coursera and the Reel Deal Mind Join Again on September 2 for: Scandinavian Film and Television!

    Does your Bergman filmography feel Im-Personna?   Do you wonder if there is more “at stake” to...