Sunday, March 11, 2012

Young Adult - The latest from Reitman and Cody

Young Adult (2011)
Comedy, Drama, 94 minutes
Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt and Patrick Wilson

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French, Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 

English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Single 50GB Blu-ray Disc

The Film 4.5/5

Jason Reitman's first full-length feature was Thank You for Smoking and he followed it with Juno and Up in the Air. All three films are among my favorites and I was eager to see Young Adult in theaters. I consider Juno and Up in the Air to be just about perfect, so expectations were sky high.

Diablo Cody won the Oscar for her Juno screenplay, but Young Adult is very different in tone. Juno MacGuff was extremely likable, but Mavis Gary (Theron) is anything but. She's selfish and doesn't consider anyone worthy of her time. She barely functions as an adult and is in all likelihood an alcoholic. The title refers to the fiction she writes for the teen market, but her series has run its course and she's writing the final installment.

When she receives an email showing that her ex-boyfriend, Buddy (Wilson), is married and has recently become a father, all she can think about is going to her old home town to win him back. The fact that he is happily married is a minor inconvenience. After all, she has baggage too.

Mavis makes the trip back to Mercury, Minnesota and calls Buddy. They arrange to meet the following evening, so she visits a bar on her own the first night she's in town. It's there that she runs into Matt Freehauf (Oswalt), who had the locker next to her in high school. He was the victim of a hate crime in school because a group of thugs thought he was gay. It turns out that he wasn't, but it's left him unable to walk without using a crutch.

Matt becomes an outlet for Mavis and he's used as a device to show the audience how deranged Mavis really is. She's not shy about announcing her intentions to wreck Buddy's marriage and steal him away. Matt casually informs her that she's mentally ill. The two form a kind of friendship which is aided by Matt's ability to brew alcohol and her need to talk about Buddy and stay permanently drunk.

As you can tell, Young Adult isn't a typical comedy. Most romantic comedy has a likable woman pursuing a man, with the two ending up together and living happily ever after. This film is more of a character study than a traditional comedy. You'll laugh at Mavis because she's so outrageous and completely clueless about the negative impact she has on other people. You'll never really root for her, but something makes you want to see what she is going to do next.

There is some small ray of hope for Mavis at the end of the film. She may not achieve what she sets out to do, but she does have an epiphany about her depressing existence. As usual, Reitman and Cody come up with a few surprises. Whatever you think of Mavis, you'll probably agree that the film is well-made and intelligently written. Some of the observations are funny, while others are sad, but they all fit the characters and feel authentic.

Theron does a good job of appearing unlikable. We even see how Mavis transforms herself from a virtual zombie who can barely function into a woman attractive enough to get Buddy's attention. Mavis might not be a woman that you will like or recognize, but she's never boring. Oswalt's portrayal of Matt is vital and the film wouldn't work without it. He's funny, but his acting ability also gives him a convincing vulnerability. He's very honest about his flaws and he's a character that is easy to like.

On first viewing, I gave Young Adult 4/5. After two further viewings, I'll raise that to 4.5/5. It doesn't have Ellen Page or George Clooney to help place it among my absolute favorite films, but I'm very happy to own it.

The Blu-ray presentation is very good. Detail is strong and I didn't detect any weak points. The audio does exactly what it is supposed to, but the film is driven by dialogue and you won't be blown away by the sound. if you liked the film in theaters, the Blu-ray is worth picking up. With an audio commentary and more than an hour of special features, it's a good overall package.

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  1. Excellent Review - could not agree more SUPERB - Charlize Theron one again sparkles!

  2. I'm glad you liked it :)

    Where would you place it in terms of Reitman's other films?

  3. REITMAN my order:
    1. Juno & Young Adult
    2. Up in the Air
    3. Thank You For Smoking

    I'd suggest that he's a better director than his dad!

  4. His films hold much more appeal for me than his dad's. I can't go two months without seeing Up in the Air.

  5. Nice review, Steven. I also thought Mavis was utterly unlikeable but Theron's portrayal was mesmerizing. A hilarious but also heart breaking movie. A must.

  6. Thanks. I haven't seen a bad Reitman movie. He's 4 for 4.