Juno was one of the best films 2007. It was nominated for Oscars, it won writer Diablo Cody one and attracted a broad audience. Director Jason Reitman and Cody teaming up again should recapture that same cinematic magic. I have no doubt that Reitman is a skilled filmmaker. Thank You for Smoking and Up in the Air are also fantastic films. However, Cody has Jennifer's Body in her post-Juno catalog and that was so awful I'm still trying to forget the stink. The good news is that Reitman makes Cody's words sparkle, even if they still don't recapture the Juno gold.
Young Adult is an ambitious film about a quasi-famous writer who never grows up, played well by the always-gorgeous Charlize Theron. Due to some sort of bug in her head, she decides to go back to her loathsome hometown and steal back the ex-boyfriend she had shortly after he has a baby with his wife. Sounds like a pretty awful character, doesn't it? That's because it is.
I totally appreciate the challenge of making a movie where the main character is the antagonist. I have to think really, really hard to come up with another film that attempted to do that and even when I do it's up for debate. (Some might consider One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to be one of them.) Theron is absolutely the bad guy in this movie and she enjoys every second of it. Although the doe-eyed ex-boyfriend, played by Patrick Wilson (Watchmen, Hard Candy) seems to slip out of her clutches every move she makes, it's uncomfortable and suspenseful to see if he falls victim to her spells. Comedian Patton Oswalt (Big Fan, Ratatouille) might be the shining role of Young Adult as a fat, unhappy, nerd who acts as Theron's good angel throughout the film.
This might venture slightly into the spoiler alert realm, but there's no way else to articulate why I didn't fully enjoy this film. If I'm going to sit and watch a 94 minute film, I want to see the characters change. That's what makes storytelling the centuries-old tradition it is. If I follow several characters along on an adventure and they come out exactly the same on the other end as they were in the beginning, what the hell was the point of hearing the story? I understand that not everyone needs that from their entertainment, but goddamnit, I do! I won't say what happens to her or whether or not Theron seduces her old beau, but I will say that if you're looking for the Hollywood turnaround from an immature character with a heart of stone and a head of delusion, you won't find it in Young Adult. And because of that, I feel like I wasted my time.
The film is well directed. Cody's script is funny, dark, moving and ambitious. The performances are fantastic, including mine for sitting still and not throwing up while watching Oswalt perform a sex scene. (I love you, Patton, but nudity just isn't for you.) Young Adult is the kind of film that some people will truly appreciate for its creativity, relatable small town humor and unlikeable and identifiable villain. However, I left the theater feeling pissed that a character I invested time into lets me down at the end. You may find that beautiful and I won't mock you if you do. Call me old fashioned, but I don't want to watch a dog chase its tail for an hour and a half. Young Adult (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B-