I like Jason Reitman's movies because he tell stories about people. He has never opted to tell great war stories or period pieces, but instead paints a picture of a quirky individual. This is refreshing, interesting, and relatable every single time. Young Adult is no exception. Reitman, once again collaborating with former stripper/Academy Award-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody, has pumped out another hit to stand alongside Thank You For Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air.
Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a young adult writer - excuse me, author - as well as a young adult herself. She drinks too much, sleeps late, guzzles diet coke, and sleeps around. When she learns that her high-school sweetheart Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) is having a baby, she decides to visit their hometown of Mercury, Minnesota in order to break up his marriage and get back together with him.
As you can tell, Diablo Cody has given us the least likable character of the year.
This is okay though, because she's just too much fun to hate entirely. Especially when contrasted with overly-nice Buddy Slade, whose name makes him sounds like some sort of secret agent dog. While home she strikes up a friendship with Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt) who seems to fall in line with the loads of people who recognize her from high school but are completely non-existent in Mavis' mind. Because, truly, the only thing that exists in Mavis' mind is Mavis.
Without question, Theron deserves Oscar consideration for her performance. I hated her character a lot, and this only proves how well she played her. Theron is one of those actresses that seems to constantly play different characters. I've never seen her fail. She so effortlessly fits into Gary's shoes that I forgot I was looking at Charlize Theron. Watch as she fidgets and moves. This is what acting means. While it's Theron who destroys the acting in Young Adult, serious honorable mention must be given to Patton Oswalt, who really does an outstanding job. He's light and jolly on the outside but Oswalt gives us a great view of just what's going on in his character's head throughout. In the end, it's Oswalt's character we feel for the most. The man seems to endlessly impress me.
Cody's script is well paced and careful, as always. Anyone who wants to flee from her patented "Cody Dialogue" can relax because it's very moderate here. It's often too much for me, but I can't help but smile when I see her personality and style slip into the dialogue in Young Adult. What Hollywood needs is more people like Cody - people with true vision and approach.
If I were to criticize one thing, I'd say the romance that develops here feels forced and unnecessary. I'd much prefer it didn't happen. I wonder what the movie would have been like without it. Sometimes when movies dare to surpass a romance, like Quantom of Solace or the recent Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, it's that much better.
If you like Jason Reitman, see Young Adult. It's another interesting character study, not devoid of Reitman's shooting and editing style, that fits right along with his other hits. Cody and Reitman seem to have a good thing going in their collaborations. I hope they stay working together, a couple of young adults themselves.