Monday, December 12, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: "Young Adult"

The recently released "Young Adults" is not a film. It is a psychiatric case study written in film. It is a portrait of a woman who moved from a small town to the big city (Minneapolis) in her Young Adult-hood. She went to the big city wanting it all--and found nothing...except ghostwriting for a now growing-less-popular-by-the-day young adult book series and a vacuous life of semi-hooked-up men.

Nothing really develops dramatically in the ensuing 1:28 minutes; she ends the film as she began; her story just "is," plot wise and character-wise.

Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary, the central/character/'patient' under film analysis: a beautiful, neurotic, shallow, somewhat successful ghost writer of young adult books, who senses her sterile, urban lonely life is passing her by. She seeks a solution by fixating on returning to her small town and re-uniting with her high school boy friend (Patrick Wilson).

So progesses the story. She returns home, and begins her obsessive hunt. So what if he is married; so what if he and his wife have a seeming loving relationship; so what if he is a loving father of a tiny child? Old love (especially hot love that was aborted by a miscarriage with the child of the hot lover when she was twenty) conquers all, right?

Of course not. It certainly doesn't conquer audience (my) interest.

Not being 'old fashioned drama,' but rather a slice-of-life 'reality' film, no one learns any life-altering lessons during their travails; no redemption occurs at the end of the film. No one changes. Everyone remains as they were at the beginning...the characters remaining static symbols echoing off the film's thematic analysis of thwarted maturity. The most interesting story line (albeit a bit cliched--a re-run of beauty and the beast) is the secondary 'love story': upon retruning, Mavis meets in a bar scene an old crippled high school barely-remembered-upon-return acquaintance--crippled emotionally years ago by false high-school accusations of homosexuality, and a 'hate crime' that has left him cane-ridden for life--and he and the beautiful Charlize/Mavis create a new close-bound friendship during her visit.

His wise-cracking Horatio perfectly matches her tortured Hamlet, and they finally sleep together near the end of the film, when she is ultimately and finally rejected by her old lover in a bathetic (supposedly poignant) final night before she leaves town. (The beauty 'finally lets/asks the beast to mount her' scene is unfortunately richer in artistic concept than it is in filmed execution. 'Nuff said.)

The acting is fine throughout the film.

Charlize Theron is a fine, fine actress. Patrick Wilson is a fine, fine actor. Jason Reitman is a fine, fine  director.

Diablo Cody is a fine least she was in "Juno." She is not, however, a fine writer in "Young Adult." The central static problem in the film is all hers...or whoever got her swept up with making the story a psychiatric case-study rather than a film, and thought it would be interesting to present a neurotic, shallow, self-centered, delusional narcissistic bitch for what she really is: a neurotic, shallow, self-centered and narcissistic delusional bitch. Unfortunately, constantly and consistently being all those things throughout the film, she also remains unsympathetic and not worth our tears...or even concern (except in the above-stated analytically descriptive way)...throughout.

Especially noteworthy in the film, however, is the performance/character of the cripple (physically challenged, I know...but crippled seems more appropriate to this film than physically challenged) played by Patton Oswalt. (Full disclosure: Mr. Oswalt was once an acting student of mine. I fight off any prejudice.) His performance is wonderfully in tune with the character's demands. He is properly wry and ironical as her imperfect physically but perfectly balanced foil/friend. Without his presence the thud sound the film made in my aesthetic consciousness would have been much louder.

Kudos to him. I hope he gets nominated for Best Supporting Actor in this year's Academy Awards.


Post a Comment

<< Home