Went with the lady to the deep part of Chicago last night to go to the one theater in the entire state of Illinois that is playing Young Adult right now. She hated it. I thought it was just OK.
I absolutely understand why she hated it. Charlize Theron plays one of the most unlikable protagonists I’ve seen in a movie in a long time in Mavis Gary. I don’t even know if I’d call her the protagonist. Basically everything she does is villainous. She’s not really an anti-hero, she appears to just be a redemption-less, awful person. Not even the last line of the movie earns her character any sort of sympathy, or makes me feel any differently about her. She’s just terrible. I understand that she’s probably supposed to be a parody of the Kardashian/Paris Hilton “lazy, drunk, rich girl” culture, but it’s hard to follow her around for 94 minutes and not feel angry.
That’s not the only flaw in the film. I was expecting Diablo Cody’s screenplay to be awful as usual, and it kind of was, but not in the way I was expecting. If you want my honest opinion on Juno, I think that it’s a good movie at its core. It has good acting and good direction from Jason Reitman. But it has this shell of horrible, annoying Cody dialogue all around it. If you get through that shell of annoyance, I think there’s a good movie somewhere in Juno. With Young Adult, a lot of the problems with the screenplay are more at the core, actually. I actually found a lot of the dialogue to be pretty smart and witty. But it’s still just kind a meandering movie, with a plot that doesn’t go anywhere or offer any thrilling character arcs. It’s just Mavis being a bitch and attempted homewrecker the entire time, and I feel like on that alone we were supposed to be fully entertained. But at least it wasn’t Jennifer’s Body, which was, in my opinion, one of the worst movies and screenplays of the last decade. (a rock band turns a girl into a demon that eats boys? Is Diablo Cody a 15-year-old? She named her main character Needy. Her name is Needy! Subtle much?)
But Young Adult works in places. When Mavis has her inevitable drunken mental breakdown, the movie finally starts to get really good. But that happens in the last 10-15 minutes or so. The whole movie should have been a brilliant examination of being trapped in a state of high school adolescence, but it just never fully went there for me. Maybe they should have pushed her to be even crazier, or even more pathetic (which they really tried to do, a lot). But she just more came across as a jerk to me more than anything. The fact that she got drunk all the time didn’t really justify her character’s delusions. It almost would have been way better if she acted as insane while she was sober. But then she wouldn’t seem like such a miserable train wreck. I get what was going on in Young Adult, but I ended up just not caring that much about what I was seeing.
I don’t know, I didn’t hate the movie, but it was certainly missing something. Maybe missing a lot of things. I never felt any emotion towards Mavis other than annoyance. Patton Oswalt’s character, however, was certainly someone to feel bad for. He actually gave the best performance in the film, in my opinion. Not to take away from Theron, who did a really good acting job playing an awful character. Still, this is Jason Reitman’s worst film, which saddens me because Up in the Air may be one of my favorite movies of all time. Up in the Air and Thank You for Smoking > Juno and Young Adult. So maybe stop working with Diablo Cody? Oh well, maybe next time.
6.5 out of 10