Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why See This...Young Adult [2011]

      I heard an argument once that all Jason Reitman films were the same.  It went like this- ‘The movie starts out funny, and then there’s a sad/serious part in the middle and then it goes back to being funny at the end.  All while doing so, the movie tries to make a vague statement about life that no one can really relate to unless of course you’re 16 and pregnant, an advertiser for a cigarette company or a man who has no friends and lives on an airplane.’  It’s the same argument used against John Wayne who rarely appeared on screen without spurs and a cowboy hat.  Both of these arguments are valid, except for that they are used as criticism.
      In many ways, Young Adult is a combination of Reitman's previous two movies, Up in the Air (2009) and Juno (2007), so I can see where the argument begins.  Like Up in the Air’s Ryan Bingham, the main character, Mavis Gray, played brilliantly by Charlize Theron, is a middle-aged American whose solitary way of living seems to clash with the regular Joes of society that she so actively tries to avoid.  And like Juno, Diablo Cody wrote the screenplay.  As a result the awkwardly comical energy of Juno is retained in Young Adult.
      But Mavis Gray is actually the complete opposite of pseudo high school hipster Juno MacGuff.  I bet that Juno would have despised Mavis if they went to the same high school.  Mavis Gray is a thirty-something year old ghost writer of a series of young adult fiction books called Waverly Prep, through which she vicariously relives her glory days as Prom Queen.  We see this in her real life as well as she wakes up around noon wearing a Hello Kitty shirt, only watches E! Network and has a tea cup dog name Dolce. 
      Unhappy with her current set up in the ‘mini apple,’ Minneapolis, Mavis’ quest throughout the movie takes her back to her high school town of Mercury, MN as she tries to spark an old flame and get back together with her currently married ex-boyfriend Buddy Slade, played by Patrick Wilson.  Through her constant trials, I’ve never felt myself rooting against a main character of a movie like I did with Mavis.  Arriving back in Mercury, Mavis crosses paths with another former schoolmate, Matt, played by Patton Oswalt.  Matt informs her that their lockers were next to each other all four years of high school and of course, she hasn’t the slightest memory of him.
      But that was then.  Throughout the movie, they become friends as Matt seems to be her only one.  As dreadful as Mavis is for a main character, Matt character really lights up the screen.  In high school, Matt was the target of a gay bullying incident that left him crippled.  Never fully recovering, Matt lives a lonely life sharing roofs with his sister, frequently going to the bar to relieve past sorrows.   Mavis, goes to the bar too and their meeting begins a string of frequent drunken lollygags shared between the two arguing over whether or not Mavis can win back happily married Buddy
      Its high school drama acted out by a bunch of 30 year olds and let me tell you it’s hilarious.  Along with Theron, Oswalt’s performance was one of the year’s best, both of which deserved an Oscar nod in my mind.  Coming off her win with Juno, I was also surprised not seeing Diablo Cody’s name under Best Original Screenplay.  Overall, Jason Reitman’s newest film does not disappoint.  Another trademark funny/serious/funny again movie that in mind was one of the year’s best.  While I’d still have to go with Up in the Air as my personal Jason Reitman favorite, Young Adult ties Juno for second place.  Through Juno, Diablo Cody matched the excellent high school movies of John Hughes in the 80s.  Young Adult is sort of a high school movie and just like Juno, it works really well.

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