By Le Anne Lindsay
I’m certain Patton Oswalt(Spence from King of Queens) never thought he’d ever get a chance to have a love scene with Charlize Theron. His romance with Rachel Dratch on the TV series was most likely more romantic action than he’d ever thought to see as a character actor.
Surprisingly, it’s the chemistry between these two actors which allows Young Adult to find its footing and likeability. The movie is written by Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody, who seems to have a knack for making geeks look desirable.
We meet Mavis Gary, (Charlize Theron) waking up disheveled and seemingly hung over in a nice, but messy apartment. She guzzles soda from a 2 Liter bottle, makes a half-hearted attempt at some video game exercise and sits down at her computer to write. Mavis makes her living as a ghost writer in what the publishing industry calls “Young Adult Literature.” She’s attempting to finish the latest edition of a teen serial; nothing as popular as Twilight, more in the vein of Sweet Valley High. The film is punctuated by Mavis’s writing voiceover, interjecting her own thoughts, insecurities and narcissism into the novel’s teen heroine.
Less than a paragraph in, Mavis does what I suspect all writers do (I know I do) – start to write, and then get distracted by an email. Her diversion is an announcement on the birth of Buddy Slade’s daughter. Buddy (Patrick Wilson, the hot Dad from Little Children w/ Kate Winslet) is Mavis’s old high school and college boyfriend/love of her life. The idea of Buddy being settled with a wife and daughter triggers something in Mavis that sets her on a mission to return to her home town of Mercury, MN and win back Buddy Slade.
If Young Adult featured Katherine Heigl in the main role, and if it had been directed by say, James L. Brooks instead of Jason Reitman, this film would probably be classified as a Rom/Com/Chick Flick. However the team of Reitman, Cody and Theron gives the film a more thought-provoking, indie feeling, shining a spotlight on a subject near, yet not so dear to my heart – the feeling that time has passed you by. In not wanting to fall into the humdrum, married-with-children, suburbia lifestyle, you somehow find yourself displaced, still kind of living the life of someone in their 20′s. Then you realize you’ve been doing that for almost 20 years! It constitutes a feeling of desperation to catch up, examine where things went wrong and attempt to circle back somehow and fix it.
I wonder if Jason Reitman in some way identifies with this arrested state of development as well? Seeing as his last film dealt with a similar theme. Mavis, although more stationary than George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air could be considered the female equivalent.
In summary, Young Adult is not as funny as Juno, not as engrossing as Up in the Air, but certainly worthy of notice for adult movie-goers, no matter your level of maturity.
Young Adult screening was courtesy of The Philadelphia Film Society’s Sneak Preview Series.
Le Anne Lindsay is a PFS Blog contributor. To read more of her work, visit Tinsel & Tine.
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