I had the highest hopes for a film that was written by Diablo Cody, she is perhaps the only writer who I have come to know by name excluding Aaron Sorkin and it took multiple movies for that to become the case. Given this, I was thoroughly excited to see her name attached to Young Adult, as I knew it would be a witty, hip narrative that required a vast cultural awareness to appreciate. While this can certainly be said about the narrative, it still manages to fall short as a film. I felt the film to lack several layers of believability and any amount of sincere honesty. I cannot blame this on the acting, because each actor delivers their character with skill and subtlety and void of the self-reverence present in Cody's previous film Juno. I am more inclined to blame the films overall lack on the filmic composition of the narrative, we are given little back story throughout the film to understand the characters, but nowhere near enough to empathize with them, regardless of their various levels of pity. Simply put, Cody tries so desperately for us to find her characters troubled, yet endearing that it becomes obnoxiously obvious to the point that their self-loathing, particularly the main character, is disgusting. I applaud Cody for removing the wit of her work from the script, as it would undeniably serve as a crutch, yet she as a writer has not evolved enough to find a replacement for the wit and the Young Adult suffers heavily from this failure.
Young Adult follows a ghostwriter named Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) who is having an existential crisis concerning her impending 30th birthday and the realization that her former boyfriend was having a child. As a result undertakes a quest to return to her small town of Mercury, Minnesota to flaunt her popularity and win back her high school sweetheart Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). Mavis, a functioning alcoholic, who spends her days knocking back buckets of Ben & Jerry's and watching reality television thinks, that her plans will happen instantaneously and that everything in Mercury will be precisely as she left it a decade ago. When she enters the now suburban city, she is disgusted by its corporate consumption and seeks out shelter in a popular local pub named Woody's. There she runs into Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt) a former classmate of Mavis's who was badly injured by classmates who beat him up after falsely assuming him to be gay. Mavis in a drunken stupor explains her plans to Matt who instantly dismisses her reminding her that Buddy was married with a child. Mavis ignores his warnings and schedules a meeting for drinks with Buddy, who agrees to the date simply out of kindness. It is at this point in the narrative that viewers realize how far gone Mavis is mentally. Her meeting with Buddy is clearly awkward and brief, yet Mavis is assured that she has won back her former lover and agrees to meet up with him again to see Buddy's wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser) play a live show with her band, aptly named Nipple Confusion. In the process every thing falls apart for Mavis. She wrecks her vehicle, has an awkward confrontation with her mother and drunkenly sleeps with Matt before waking up to realize the delusion she is facing. She leaves Matt's room and after having a talk with his younger sister about the place of her life in relation to Mercury and drives off to return to Minneapolis. It is implied that Mavis finishes her book with a new and bold perspective on life, one that is completely distanced from her past.
Young Adult is a decent movie, but I cannot begin to attempt to analyze the varying problematic portrayals within the film. The film is drenched now with what one would call "first world problems," a phrase made popular by the rise of tumbler based websites. These problems refer to anything that is a seeming inconvenience to an individual that are reflective of their obvious comfort, for example a person complaining about their favorite restaurant changing the menu would be first world in that a considerable part of the global community struggles to gain proper, if any, nourishment. While the film's examples are by no means this extreme, they certainly are rather arbitrary. Mavis complains of her job as a ghostwriter and her lack of hip restaurant choices to the people of Mercury when it is clear that her lifestyle far exceeds any of those she encounters, particularly that of Matt who has become a cripple based solely on fictitious rumors spread by ill-willed teenager. Her job and lazy lifestyle are the thing of dreams as made apparent by the longing gazes of the women she encounters in the film, making her complaints seem bitter and illogical. Similarly, Mavis is self-destructive, abrasive alcoholic who is never judged in the narrative for her actions. Instead, the film simply ends with her comfortable in her own shoes, implying that her truly destructive ways are in the past, along with the people she inevitably destroyed. Aside from suffering from Trichotillomania there is really no explanation to Mavis mental state, thus making her actions simply bitter and hateful, not acts of a person who is suffering mental instability. While it may seem this way, Mavis is an unkind person who never receives narrative punishment for her problems. This is perhaps the inherent flaw in the film that explains is ultimate lack of enjoyability.
I know my critique makes it seem unwatchable, but the film is not terrible. If anything, you should watch it just to see the excellent performance by Patton Oswalt...trust me it will surprise you. It is still in the cheap theaters making it worth a theater going experience.