Young Adult

The team behind Juno reteam for a disappointing, black-hearted rom-com...

 

3 stars

 

 

Charlize Theron in Young Adult

 

Director: Jason Reitman

Starring: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser

 

Reteaming for the first time since their 2007 Oscar winning hit, Juno, director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody follow up that charming tale of teen pregnancy and surrogacy with the decidedly black comedy, Young Adult.

 

Charlize Theron and Patrick Wilson in Young Adult

Centreing around Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), a 37 year old divorced author of young adult fiction, the film tells the story of Mavis' delusional attempt to win back her high school sweetheart – and new Father - Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson).

 

Returning to her hometown on the basis of a spurious real estate deal, Mavis is soon plotting how to weasel her way back into Buddy's life, while also crossing paths with crippled former High School nerd, Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt) and generally drinking herself into an early grave.

 

Rightly winning praise for the quality of Theron and Oswalt's central performances, despite that Young Adult marks a backward step for both Cody and Reitman. Where Juno was a well-judged mixture of the sweet, the sour and the whimsical, here the tonal balance is never as sure.

 

Much better when it's simply being vile, scabrous and funny, Young Adult drops the ball quite badly when it tries to play with more dramatic material. In part, this is a result of Cody's failure to effectively flesh out the characters and world surrounding Mavis, but it's also because the dramatic scenes feel reminiscent of similar moments in several recent and far better films.

 

For example, you can't watch Young Adult and not feel the influence of Alexander Payne and Terry Zwigoff on proceedings. However, Cody and Reitman fail to transcend those influences and instead offer up something that's reminiscent of Ghost World crossed with Sideways and…well, not a lot more.

 

Charlize Theron attends the neighbourhood showdown in Young Adult

Which is a shame as the premise for Young Adult is a good one and many of the key components are in place to make a memorable film.

 

Perhaps the answer to why Young Adult is a near miss rather than a bullseye lies in its path to production. A spec script written by Cody off her own back, Reitman only decided to make Young Adult after principal photography on another project was shunted to 2012 and a small gap opened up in his schedule. Shot relatively quickly, it's hard to shake the feeling that perhaps this was a script that went before the cameras a little too soon and would have benefited from a bit more development and finessing.

 

That said, despite its dramatic shortcomings Young Adult does manage to contain some very funny moments and when the comedy clicks it clicks incredibly well. Theron in particular proves to be an adept comic performer, both physically and verbally, and her scenes with Oswalt are the genuine highlights of this flawed, yet still entertaining film.

 

James Peaty

 

Click here for the trailer:

 

 

 

Young Adult
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