Young Adult (2011) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody propelled high onto my list of directors and writers after their successful film Juno (2007). The two have collaborated on a new film, Tully (2018), which is one of my most anticipated of the year. It has become clear I’ve not seen much of Reitman’s work, and I think I need to explore his other films. In researching, it turns out that the duo also created a film together called Young Adult (2011), which stars Charlize Theron (who is the lead in their new film as well), so it felt like a good place to start. Unfortunately, Young Adult did not pull me in the way I’d hoped.

Young Adult didn’t work for me as well as Juno did

Mavis Gary (Theron) is an author of a young adult book series but is clearly feeling unfulfilled. After receiving an email that her ex-boyfriend and his new wife have had a child, she decides it’s time to return to her hometown. Unfortunately, her plans are to win back Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), despite his happy family situation.

Mavis isn’t really a likable character. While the emotional journey she goes on during the film isn’t exactly expected, it’s also not one that was very satisfying. Fortunately, Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt) is a character that echoes a lot of the thoughts the audience should be having about Mavis. He is drawn to her because she was the cool chick in high school and one of the only people to get out of the town. Matt has a tragic backstory, as he was the victim of a hate crime and is disabled as a result. The comedic hindsight of the story is that he was beaten for being gay, but he wasn’t actually gay – a fact that Mavis laughs at, revealing the kind of dark personality she has.

The relationship with Buddy is a confusing one. Some of the choices he makes are questionable, but his wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser) seems to be okay with Mavis being around. Fortunately, Beth being in a mother-themed band is one of the highlights of the film. They aren’t very good, which is a joke within the film, to begin with, but the idea of it is pretty great. It does lead to one of Mavis’s worst moments, which cemented my disdain for her as a character.

Final thoughts…

Juno is one of my favorite films, and Young Adult feels like one I won’t likely rewatch. It’s definitely not bad, but I personally didn’t connect with it. It’s a relatively short film, but I was ready for it to end. The performances were good, but it wasn’t a story that I cared for. Young Adult earns the Decent Watch rating.

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