Quick Movie Review: Young Adult (2011)

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.

Halloween Scene: Jennifer’s Body (2009)

I was pretty excited for Jennifer’s Body, but it had nothing to do with plot or acting or story or the fact that it was written by Juno’s Diablo Cody (I thought Juno was mostly boring and kind of ridiculous when it came to dialogue), but because I’ve always had a thing for Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox is crazy hot. Oddly enough, it’s the leads’ star power that kind of derails the movie’s sleaze (just to let you guys know ahead of time, there is sex in the movie, but no nudity, which kind of deflates it a bit).

Anyway, the story’s about Fox (Jennifer) getting turned into a succubus by a band with Adam Brody in it. They’re trying to make a sacrifice to become gigantic rock stars, but it turned out that Jennifer wasn’t actually a virgin when they sacrificed her so she turned into the succubus (which kind of eats human life/blood to stay hot and healthy looking). Her best friend Seyfried sticks by her, but turns into the story’s hero as she figures things out.

I can’t really place my finger on it, but this movie just seemed kind of whatever. Maybe it’s because a lot of the gore was shown off camera (what’s the point if you’ve already got an R?). Maybe because of unbelievable/sketchy plot points like Seyfried learning all about succubi from the local library (does Giles run it?) or even the fact that Seyfried and Fox are friends. She says its because they’ve known each other forever, but I just didn’t buy it. Why would the ultra hot and popular Jennifer want to hang out with the nerdy girl? Why would the nerdy girl put up with her abuse? Maybe it’s because I don’t still have friends from when I was very young anymore, but that “well, we’ve known each other forever” thing doesn’t hold water with me once you hit high school.

I will say that there are some good lines. I liked the dialogue in this one way better than Juno because it didn’t seem as in your face or mile a minute or all over the place. I also liked Johnny Simmons as Seyfried’s boyfriend, JK Simmons as a hook handed teacher (I didn’t notice it at first and unfortunately it has NO pay off throughout the film) and Amy Sedaris as Seyfried’s alcoholic (I think) mother. It was cool seeing her especially play outside her normal wheelhouse.

All in all, it wasn’t a terrible movie, but it didn’t really do much for me as a story, which is too bad because there’s such a dearth of original non-remake, non-sequel horror movies coming out. This one clearly got made on the strength of Cody’s name and a solid cast, but I think it’s wobbliness says more about why the movie didn’t do super well than why new horror movies shouldn’t get made. There have got to be better horror scripts floating around just waiting for some new studio looking to make some bucks can put some money behind. Hell, I’ve got a nice little slasher script I bet could be made for short money if anyone’s interested.