Film Review: Young Adult

There can be no question that when it comes to Mad Max: Fury Road, it is Charlize Theron who steals the show. So impressive and central is her performance that a lot of people are even arguing that it is in fact, her movie rather than Max’s! But this limelight seems odd, because she’s an actress that I have always felt has snuck somewhat under the radar. An A-List name who shies away during a film. Her filmography is impressive: The Cider House Rules, Men Of Honour, The Italian Job, Snow White & The Huntsman¬†just a few example, and also the films I own, yet thinking about them, I struggle to remember her roles with any clarity.

I also own Young Adult, in which she takes the lead, and once again I remember nothing about it, or her. But having seen her stunning performance in Mad Max I was somehow drawn back to it. Wanting to remember, prepared to take the risk. But there was just something a little uneasy in the back of my mind, the box art, the title, all seemingly implying a cheap, throwaway comedy and that unease grew when the opening titles rolled and the name: Patton Oswalt appeared on screen.

Patton Oswalt - Young Adult

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Patton, except for the fact that I have seen a lot of episodes of The King Of Queens. So burned onto my memory is his character Spence Olchin I just struggle to see him as anybody else now. And in the same way the cast of Friends will always live in a coffee shop, or Arnold Schwarzenegger will always be The Terminator, it’s impossible for me to get past that when I hear his voice, and see him on screen.

Even with bad box art and personal miscasting, I still gave the film a chance. But sadly, it didn’t take long to remind me that as a film Young Adult is a complete mess of depressive accuracy. It is essentially a film in which you see through painfully myoptic eyes how it must appear to anybody watching as somebody’s life manically spirals out of their control. And it left me feeling completely at odds. I have been through that destructive implosion. Anorexia robs your sense of perspective and your vision of reality. I know how selfish and manipulative and dark you can appear to become even though to you it all feels natural and correct and normal. But that narrative viewpoint also also caused me to side against the film, because it’s not true. It’s a symptom and Young Adult refuses to offer help.

Charlize Theron - Young Adult

Young Adult takes Theron’s character Mavis, and accurately and shamefully conveys the true power of how pitying and loathing the world becomes when somebody acts the way she does. I sensed the realism in the withdrawing abandonment of those around her, unsure of her, because I’ve felt it happen to me. It almost became an out-of-body experience. And I sat there looking at it, despising this character, hating her, feeling virtual contempt for her because that’s what the movie wants you to feel towards her, but therefore hating the movie because I could see myself in her, and could see how much she needed help.

And this double emotion was a nasty position to be in. I simply wanted to scream and shout at the film rather than the character as I’m meant to. I wanted to jump up and down and say “you’re wrong, yes she’s despicable, but it’s just a symptom, stop making her out to be this way and give her a hug”. It really does feel like Young Adult is a vengeful film. That it wants to have a conscious go at somebody who has treated people that way. I almost want to say that writer Diablo Cody is venting towards somebody in her own life, but I have no basis aside from the fact this film feels very angry towards the person but not problem. It feels as though it lacks the experience to know how blindingly insular yet unintentional these traits are.

Patton Oswalt & Charlize Theron - Young Adult

While I detest the emotional response to the film I had for it’s almost bullying approach to it’s character, and it’s lack of insight and understanding to the needs and realities of them – even though the film does try to show it through Oswalt’s character Matt, but even then twists the story and his relationship with Theron in a way that wouldn’t naturally happen – I just found when you looked out beyond the characters, the padding, the background story is just dull and boring. The setup of the isolated author nearing career uncertainty is a sound enough trigger to warrant the character breakdown but there’s just no further substance to it. There just isn’t enough inviting story to offset the rest. Young Adult just doesn’t entertain or give you a reason to enjoy.

Ignoring my own personal responses to the film, at it’s heart, Young Adult is a simple and lacklustre story that makes you detest and hate the main character. And, aside from the fact that Theron’s performance feels right in it’s portrayal, there is no other positive to take from the film. It’s just naturally depressive and vindictively bullish and sadly, boring to boot.

5 out of 10 stars (5 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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