Thursday 9 February 2012

Review: Young Adult

Year: 2011 (U.K Release 2012)
Director: Jason Reitman
Screenplay: Diablo Cody
Starring: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson

Synopsis is here

I found myself quite shocked at the quite lacklustre amount of London cinemas screening Young Adult. Despite  a decent amount of buzz, awards and great reviews, the film only seemed to open in one or two places. In fact, bizarrely, it looked easier to watch the film outside of London than inside, with both of the shire areas (Bucks and Cambs) that I frequent, not only having cinemas showing the movie, but a decent amount of screenings in each.

I actually found myself, more shocked at the cinema situation, than Young Adult itself. The film is somewhat unconventional, with its lead performances, and has a roguish charm that comes through many of the scenes. Yet, by the end of it, much like Martha Marcy May Marline, I was only moderately satisfied. I have no issue with settling in with selfish, unlikable characters, but with Young Adult, I got the feeling that it said everything it needed to say quite quickly, and I had no other reason to stay.

The film follows the same route as previous Reitman features. We are given a character who is independent or at least believes they are, who when challenged, look for solace in al the wrong places. Reitman's film finds the same beats he's hit before and Diabio Cody returns (their previous collaboration being Juno) to play upon the same arrested development notes that did so well before. Only this time the vessel is a 37 year old mega bitch as opposed to a 17 year old snaky teen.

The character of Mavis is more than a little difficult to get to grips with, but not without a certain appeal. A deluded creature, trapped in a bizarre womb of bad reality T.V shows, diet coke breakfasts and doomed nostalgia. Much like so much of our culture recently, she is completely fixated on her perception of the past and will not let go of her childish, self serving attitudes of her childhood. Credit is due to Theron as she attacks the material ferociously, and accentuates the bitterness that such a person would hold on to. Her partner in crime, is Patton Oswalt whose Matt Freehauf is equally as damaged and regressed and the films sharpness is highlighted best in the scenes between the two.

There is a bitter-sweet nature to the whole of proceedings that litters many of the films scenes. A lunchtime scene scene at Mavis' parents has her seemingly serious cry for help laughed off, while Matt's telling line of "guys like me are born loving women like you" is one that should ring true to many a nerdy male ear. But the film's final third feels a little detached, as if it was hinting towards something before turning it's back. The films  final coda gives the clear notion that while Mavis' arc must end on a pitch that leaves some warm and fuzzy feelings left in the belly. Although if we ignore the voice over and look at Mavis' banged up mini for metaphor then life may take circular turn.

All in all, the film is quite simply not greater than the sum of it's parts. Reitman is not known for his visuals and does an OK job, but nothing helps the movie stand out. Theron and Oswalt show true quality in their displays, while Patrick Wilson puts in another shift as Mr J Bloggs. Cody's screenplay has bite but doesn't have the killer payoff to leave you reeling. This said the film will make you laugh and shift uncomfortably in your seat. It's just that, if your like me you may only have to see it once.