The dark side of never growing up

YOUNG ADULT. Starring Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson and Elizabeth Reaser. Directed by Jason Reitman.

Young Adult showcases a great performance by Charlize Theron that is at once funny, touching and unsettling. While the film appears superficially similar to screenwriter Diablo Cody’s Juno, it lacks that film’s essential optimism. Instead, it presents a more cynical take on the ways that growing into adulthood often collides head-on with what young people expect their lives will be like.

Mavis Gary (Theron) is the writer of a series of novels in the “young adult” genre. The fact that the end of the series is looming weighs on her mind and Mavis is unsure of what awaits her. She receives an e-mail announcing the birth of the baby of her ex-boyfriend from high school, Buddy (Patrick Wilson). She takes this as a sign that she needs to return to her home town and win Buddy back. This dream is complicated by the fact that Buddy is happily married to Beth (Elisabeth Reaser). This is unlikely to stop Mavis, however, as it becomes increasingly clear that her view of life is frequently far removed from reality.

Director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody succeed in offering audiences a viciously funny and sharply written dark comedy. The cast deliver stellar one-liners and comedic exchanges, while the leads enjoy great chemistry with one another. The interaction between Mavis and an old school acquaintance Matt (Patton Oswalt) is especially good, with Oswalt delivering a tender character study of a middle-aged man whose life has been marked by a tragedy from which he has never been able to move on.

Young Adult can be highly recommended to movie-goers who enjoy their comedy generously laced with bitterness. While far from a “feel-good” experience, the film offers plenty of enjoyment, from the acting talent on display to the clever, multi-layered writing. 

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