• FILM

  • SEARCH FOR

Young Adult

Young Adult

Directed by Jason Reitman. Starring Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser, Collette Wolfe, Jill Eikenberry, Richard Bekins. (2011, R, 94 min.)

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Dec. 16, 2011

Thirty-seven-year-old Mavis Gary (Theron) is a beautiful, unhappy, and unlikable narcissist. Add delusional, rude, and alcoholic to the list. She’s not the kind of person we generally want to spend time with in the movies or in real life. However, the attributes that make Mavis bad company are the very reasons you’ll want to catch her in Young Adult: Prickliness like this in a lead character is a rare thing in a movie – especially a Hollywood comedy. Mavis’ uncommon abrasiveness and the film’s avoidance of a tidy (read: happy) resolution make Young Adult one of the freshest and most original movies around right now, though caveat emptor: This may not be enough to make it likable.

Rule-breakers Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody, director and screenwriter respectively, have teamed up again following the splash they made with Juno in 2007. Young Adult is a completely different film than Juno. It has none of Juno’s hipster patois or youthful sass and few of the implicit messages found in Reitman’s other films, Up in the Air and Thank You for Smoking. Yet Young Adult might be seen as a window into another idiosyncratic young woman’s life, set 20 years down the road from Juno. Mavis is a pseudonymous author of a young-adult book series that is about to fold. She lives in a Minneapolis high rise, having escaped her hometown of Mercury, Minn., where she was the prettiest girl in the high school but also its reigning bitch goddess. In her mind, she is a famous author in the big city whose life would be the envy of anyone from her hick town. But as we observe Mavis in her condo, the thin veneer of her self-deception begins to crack. Soon she is off on what is clearly a fool’s mission to return to Mercury and reignite things with her high school boyfriend, Buddy Slade (Wilson), who has just sent her an announcement about the arrival of his first baby.

Mavis pounces on Mercury as though she were from Mars. Her attempts to seduce Buddy flounder, though she remains oblivious; her admission to her parents that she suspects she is an alcoholic is met by a change of subject; and her callous exploitation of Matt Fruehauf (Oswalt) – who is also unable to move beyond high school, but for totally different reasons than Mavis – can be harsh to watch. Still, the film maintains a comic edge that allows us to see the humor in the various situations without ever making fun of the characters. Theron and Oswalt both deliver brilliant performances, allowing us to see past their outer appearances and into their inner depths. The film’s attention to the casual details of everyday life also allows the movie to resonate widely. Young Adult may not take things as far as one might like, but its character portraits are indelible.

READ MORE
More Jason Reitman
Jason Reitman (Not) Versus the Internet
Jason Reitman (Not) Versus the Internet
Men, Women & Children director on the use and abuse of tech

Richard Whittaker, Oct. 17, 2014

Oswalt, Reitman: Shut the F#!k Up Already!
Oswalt, Reitman: Shut the F#!k Up Already!
Patton Oswalt, Jason Reitman ape Alamo PSA

Marc Savlov, Dec. 14, 2011

More Jason Reitman Films
Men, Women & Children
We might be able to connect as human beings if we could just disconnect from from our wired lives, says this movie about our modern world.

Kimberley Jones, Oct. 17, 2014

Labor Day
An escaped convict finds a family of sorts in this new drama by Jason Reitman.

Louis Black, Jan. 31, 2014

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Austin Filmmakers Announced for Sundance
Sundance Calls
Several local filmmakers chosen to compete at Sundance 2017

Dec. 1, 2016

Man Down
A soldier struggles with PTSD

Dec. 2, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Young Adult, Jason Reitman, Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser, Collette Wolfe, Jill Eikenberry, Richard Bekins

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
This content has not been formatted for this window size.
Please increase the size of your browser window, or revisit this page on a mobile device.
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)