Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Movie with Abe: Young Adult

Young Adult
Directed by Jason Reitman
Released December 9, 2011

Jason Reitman has an excellent track record. Two of his first three feature films were nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars – as well as Best Director – and the first, “Thank You For Smoking,” is perhaps even better than his other two. His latest film, “Young Adult,” is less laced with parody than “Thank You For Smoking,” less offbeat than “Juno,” and less serious than “Up in the Air.” Reteaming with “Juno” scribe Diablo Cody provides the opportunity for a return to uncontrollable cleverness, imbuing its title character with a hefty dose of personality and a taste for cruelty, making her one of cinema’s most unlikeable and entertaining protagonists.

Charlize Theron, who has earned Oscar nominations for her dramatic performances in “Monster” and “North Country,” is not the most conventional choice to headline a comedy. Her recurring role on “Arrested Development” might recommend her to the educated viewer, but otherwise her ability to be consistently funny comes as somewhat of a surprise. Theron puts up an icy wall around herself as she takes on the role of Mavis Gary, a young adult author whose cleanliness and courtesy leave much to be desired. In an attempt to avoid her deadline and perhaps even gain some inspiration, Mavis returns to her hometown of Mercury, Minnesota to win back her high school boyfriend, who is now married with a newborn baby.

What’s great about Mavis is that she doesn’t care what anyone thinks, doing the opposite of what might be considered acceptable at nearly every turn. She has no filter and dresses exactly how she wants to despite presumable societal objections. Theron plays her with such a passionate disregard for anyone else’s opinion that she really becomes someone that audiences can love to hate. Her former beau, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) is nice enough, but his obliviousness to her energetic designs to steal him away make him somewhat pitiable, as is also the case for his sweet wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser). The film’s only truly compassionate character is Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), a former classmate of Mavis’ who was the victim of a brutal beating in high school that left him somewhat crippled. A chance encounter with Mavis at a bar makes him her unfortunate confidante and punching bag, providing many of the film’s best scenes. The words that spew from Mavis’ mouth can easily be traced back to Cody’s pen, and the dialogue is what makes the movie so entertaining. It’s hardly a kind film, but sometimes it’s worthwhile to shine a light on the more despicable people out there, and this is a compelling and enthralling argument for that.


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