Last week I watched the Diabolo Cody-written, Jason Reitman-directed flick Young Adult. It’s about Mavis (Charlize Theron), a woman who ghost writes a young adult book series aimed at teenage girls deciding she wants to return to the small town she grew up on and get back together with her longtime boyfriend who happens to be married and a new dad. It’s kind of a modern day Madame Bovary with the main character being a woman mostly disconnected from reality and has based her new plans on the kind of fiction she’s absorbed in the modern world. By that I mean Mavis thinks she can win her boyfriend back because that’s what she’s seen in movies and read in books, but this is real life and things don’t work out that way.
The movie is basically one well-orchestrated train wreck with comedian Patton Oswalt acting as the audience’s stand in. He was a fellow classmate of Mavis’ and was beaten almost to death in high school by a bunch of jocks who thought he was gay. He, like any rational person, tells her that her plan is stupid and that she should forget it, but she keeps on going, fueled at times by his homemade liquor. Theirs is a weird friendship, one I didn’t get to see all of because the Netflix DVD I got was messed up and I had to skip the first scene of her in his garage where he was showing her his still.
I don’t think I liked this film, though it was mostly well done. Mavis is not likeable whatsoever and her plan is foolish. I get that she’s supposed to be this tragic figure, just like Madame Bovary, but if you expect sympathy from this guy because you can’t get a handle on reality, you’re barking up the wrong tree. I mostly just didn’t care about anything in the movie. I liked Patton’s character and the object of Mavis’ affection and even his wife, but when the entire movie is framed through her perspective and it’s one I so clearly disagree with/don’t care about, what’s the point? Maybe it’s because I’m a new(ish) dad myself, but the idea of a woman trying to weasel her way between my family and me holds zero interest and was obviously doomed to fail from the beginning begging the question again, what’s the point? Is it to show me that, as the tagline points out, everyone gets old, but not everyone grows up. Yup, no shit.
While I’ve liked some of Reitman’s other movies like Thank You For Smoking, I’ve found I’m not a big fan of his collaborations with Cody (Juno fell flat for me and didn’t live up to the hype whatsoever). It seems to me like when they’re together they’re both trying way to hard to make me feel something without doing the leg work to actually get me there emotionally. Sure, it was awkward when Mavis had her meltdown at the baby party, but it was just because that was a break from social convention and I was seeing a drunk be stupid, it wasn’t because I feel for her and care about her and am sorry she’s feeling so bad (like I often do with Michael Scott or David Brent on the two Offices). On the other hand, Oswalt does customize action figures, so maybe I do like the film.