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Young Adult

Young Adult

Released 3 February 2012
Director Jason Reitman

Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt
Writer(s) Diablo Cody

Diablo Cody, Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick, Jason Reitman, Russell Smith, Charlize Theron
Origin United States
Running Time 94 minutes
Genre Drama, comedy
Rating 15A

Homecoming queen.

When director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody first collaborated, the result was Juno, a film which gained accolades and awards nominations for both. Personally I couldn’t stand it. I can see where all the hype came from (as a debut for a screenwriter it definitely showed a strong, original voice) but it was all so self-consciously hip that there was a strange blankness at its heart. As it happens, I walked out before the end of the film and I still don’t care to know how it all ended for young Juno. I was therefore pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the latest Reitman/Cody project, Young Adult.

Charlize Theron stars as Mavis Gary. Having escaped her small-town life for the big city and established herself as a writer, Mavis is sure she is living the dream (although her career is actually failing and she drinks herself into an alcoholic stupor every night). The only thing Mavis feels is missing from her life is her old high-school sweetheart, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). So she heads back to the town where she was once the popular girl on campus to steal her ex away from his happy marriage and new born baby.

The script displays a more relaxed Cody; still sharp of tongue and heavily doused in pop-culture but now with an added dash of compassion. Mavis is a great creation; deluded, self-absorbed and living in a state of arrested development. Yes, she isn’t exactly likable but it’s testament both to Cody’s more mature writing and Theron’s excellent performance, that we develop a connection with her. She is tragic and comic in equal measure and even though she is fairly morally bankrupt as a person, her spiral into alcohol fuelled madness still provokes sympathy and laughter.

For this, credit must also be given to Patton Oswalt, who plays Matt Freehauf, a nerdy guy once ignored by Mavis in high school but who turns out to be her unlikely confidant and conscience. His performance is utterly believable and locks the more exaggerated character of Mavis into reality. He throws Patrick Wilson, who is as charismatic as a department store mannequin, into the shade.

Young Adult shows a huge progression in Cody as a writer. It’s an enjoyably sharp comedy with a healthy dose of pathos thrown in for good luck.

- Linda O’Brien