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Director: Jason Reitman
Writer: Diablo Cody
Cast: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser, Collette Wolfe, Jill Eikenberry, Richard Bekins, Mary Beth Hurt, Kate Nowlin, Jenny Dare Paulin, Rebecca Hart, Hettienne Park, Louisa Krause, Elizabeth Ward Land, Brian McElhaney
Synopsis: Soon after her divorce, a fiction writer returns to her home in small-town Minnesota, looking to rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend, who is now married with kids.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language and some sexual content
Everyone gets old. Not everyone grows up.
How many of us truly remember high school? The days when things seemed so much simpler, and how some of us were lucky enough to be in the niche of popularity among our peers; while others were forced to live out their high school years in humiliation, as an unpopular outcast. For some people, high school can seem like a simpler time. A time when the only thing that matters is how popular you are, and who your social click just happens to be. Of course, what most of these same high school kids that are popular fail to notice is that sometimes life isn't always that easy. And just because you had a high school relationship with someone, there's no guarantee that person won't eventually move on with their lives, after they lose contact with you for a while. After all, we all have to grow up sometimes...don't we?
Throughout this year, there's been a lot of movies ranging from great, outstanding, decent to even the tragically mediocre. Fortunately, "Young Adult" falls into that select group of great and outstanding films. Not only is the movie interesting in it's own simplicity, but it also features a surprisingly deep character driven story arc, as it also raises many philosophical questions about life. How sometimes the relationships that we held in the past may not always be there for us in the future. Or, that sometimes we can all get so caught up in an ideal that we often fail to see the reality of life that lies in front of us. But, most of all...and I do mean most of all...how sometimes we tend to allow tragic events in our lives to hinder us from ever moving forward.
Indeed, how does one move on from a tragic event? Do they simply use it as an excuse to feel sorry for themselves for the rest of their lives, while being pitied by others. Do they live in the past, while refusing to believe anything that contradicts their own views of the world. Or, do they do something about it, and try to start over? Although, most people would say that the answer is very easy, but as the old saying goes, "Somethings are easier said than done."
Not only does "Young Adult" touch upon all these interesting moral aspects about life, but it does so in such a thought provocative way, while still remaining entertaining as well. It touches upon these subjects deeply when necessary, but it never comes off as preachy or over bearing. No, the messages that "Young Adult" brings to the table are brought up very subtly, but they still resonate a deep impact on it's audience by the end of the film all the same. However, what is it about "Young Adult" that makes it one of 2011's best movies? Well, lets get into that now, as we'll have to first go over the story.
Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), is a ghostwriter living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she writes a series of "Young Adult" novels for a living. Although, her name is never officially advertised on the books that she writes, but she's still left with the task of writing them all the same. Mavis lives in her apartment along with her dog, as she struggles day to day to make ends meet. Unsatisfied with her life, until she gets an e-mail from an old boyfriend of hers from high school. According to the e-mail, her old flame, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), is now married to another girl, and has just recently became a father. Although it seems that he's happily married, she somehow convinces herself that he's really miserable, and takes this opportunity to go back to her old town, to win him back.
On the surface, her motives seem very selfish, and I certainly can't say that I would condone this kind of behavior from anyone. However, with the way that this film is set up, you can never quite bring yourself to ever hate her. Sure, she can be mean, bossy, and a bit self absorbed, but you can also sense an inner sadness within her character. Granted, most audiences won't notice it right away, but you obviously tell it's there. Like Jason Reitman's previous film, "Up In The Air", the character progression of Mavis is done very subtly to where most viewers will have to really pay attention to see it, as most general audiences will probably miss it if they go into this movie thinking it's just another run of the mill comedy.
Anyway, to get back to the story, she visits her old home town again to try to win back her high school sweetheart. As she's visiting, we come to find out that she used to be one of the most popular girls of her class back in the day. Not only were all the girls jealous of her back then, but the ones that weren't jealous, they all wanted to be just like her and worshiped the very ground she walked on; while all the guys couldn't help but be in love with her. Indeed, in her mind, she was at the peak of perfection in high school, which turns out to be another reason why she's so miserable that her life never panned out the way she wanted it.
Of course, she even meets another ex-classmate of hers named Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), who has been in love with her his whole life, yet she would always take pleasure, in high school, to mock him and call him a "theater fag" whenever she got the chance. (No, I'm not prejudiced against gays, but I'm merely stating what Mavis said about Matt, who isn't really gay, but the whole town THINKS he is) However, now that they're both grown up, she's surely to treat him with a helluva a lot more respect...right? Wrong. Although she does hang out with him quite a bit, to do a lot of drugs and alcohol to unwind, she still treats him like a doormat throughout most of the movie; while he acts as sort of her conscience in all this. However, Mavis being the stubborn girl that she is refuses to listen to any of Matt's obvious conclusions that what she's doing is wrong, but in her mind, she strongly feels that Buddy and her were meant to be. Why does she assume they'd be perfect together? Because they made a great couple in high school, so nothing can stand in her way. Forget the fact that he's happily married with a baby on the way. No, true love conquers all, right? No, as it turns out, Mavis' obsession runs much deeper than that, as we come to learn about a tragic event that happened between her and Buddy that she feels deeply responsible for, and hasn't gotten over it since, as she feels that if it had not been for such an event, then they'd still be together. What could this tragic event be you ask? I can't say, as you'll just have to see the movie to find out.
However, this does go back to one of the original philosophical questions this film raises about how we tend to get lost in an ideal that we often don't see reality for what it really is. How we don't sometimes see how we're hurting those that merely want to help us, or how sometimes we get so caught up in an ideal about what we could do that we never stop to ask whether or not we even should to begin with. Indeed, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody create a perfect movie that not only touches on all these concepts subtly, but it never comes off as overly preachy. If anything, most audiences will find themselves taken in by this dramatic comedy, as Diablo Cody doesn't settle for any of the cheap jokes that most audiences would come to expect from a film. No, the film's humor is derived based on the character's experiences with each other, and unlike most films, you can genuinely sense a relationship among the characters that doesn't come off as forced or ill contrived. No, all the relationships in this movie carry their own weight, and the movie never rushes to ever develop them either.
As for the acting performances, I think everyone played their parts well with the exception of Patrick Wilson, who came off as a bit of a bore in this role. But then again, the movie rarely focuses on his character, so his part would've been hard for most actors to pull off anyway. However, the two actors that stand out most to me would be Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt, as the chemistry they had is truly one of the best parts of the movie. Sure, she basically treats the guy like crap throughout most of the movie, but you can also sense a deep connection between them as well. However, that's not to say this movie settles for any stereotypical Hollywood ending. No, this movie is too intelligent for that, as the ending leaves audiences with just enough to feel a bit of closure to the story, while leaving the most of it left to interpretation.
In the end, I'd highly recommend it at a rating of four out four. Truly, one of the best films of 2011, and if you haven't seen it by now, then I would definitely make a point to see it. Sure, it may not be your usual run of the mill comedy, but it's definitely one of the deepest ones out there in terms of story.