Young Adult: Arrested Development without the Laughter

Posted on Tuesday, 3rd January 2012 @ 10:54 AM by Text Size A | A | A

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Young Adult is not a comedy. Whoever led you to believe that this was a witty, charming, or even just wildly funny, was greatly mistaken. It is dark and bleak, but not dark enough to truly strike, merely gnashing at the bars of mediocrity.

Mavis or Sylvia or lazy pet owner, played by a stunningly off-putting Charlize Theron, is faced with the end of a chapter in her life, a Young Adult chapter in her life. This film leads the race in painfully obvious DHM (deep hidden meaning). Living a sham of a life in Minneapolis, Mavis receives an invite from her high school sweetheart to his baby’s naming/shower/celebration. Deciding that this is a sign, Mavis returns her hometown on false pretenses and makes her moves on her happily married ex, played by a scruffily vague Patrick Wilson. Along the way, she bumps into a man she callously remembers as “Hate Crime Guy”, played by the adorably snarky Patton Oswalt. This is the great meeting in the film, not the past love but the present dork. The emotionally crippled young adult fiction writer meets the physically disabled nerdy accountant, oh snap, their lockers were right next to each other in high school, and, oh wow, they both have literal and figurative crutches.

The actors were all fantastic in capturing their characters, however flawed and feeble. Jason Reitman takes another stab at a shadow-of-a-life story and will continue to receive praise for his “insightfulness” of close-up montages and vague conclusions. Diablo Cody has become a figure of little bark and lesser bite. Failing at writing a wicked woman, Cody gives us a truly awful female character, without any redemptive or even remarkable qualities. The team behind Juno has made a film about a woman both barren in the womb and in life with a script barren of wit and charm, which leaves this audience member feeling quite empty.

In case you do still plan on seeing this, I won’t spoil the many twists-and-turns and the multi-faceted character development, insert sarcasm. One may argue that the unfeeling neutrality and lack of dramatic and comedic weight could be interpreted as some greater message from the filmmakers, but it comes off more as laziness in its lack of entertainment and/or enlightenment. Deep character studies can be fantastic, but they must delve deeply enough to intrigue the audience to care for the emotional ride. Bad characters can be hilarious, but they must be either in opposition to the audience’s sympathies or become good characters in the audience’s ability to empathize with them. It appears that the people who made this disregarded or simply forgot why people go to the movies, shirking off the audience for their grander vision of meaning just as Mavis shirks off those around her.

As a film-going member of the public who expected to laugh at misplaced shenanigans and wickedly funny wit, Young Adult is nearly enough to drive this critic to the bottle. Watching the whole film is about as comfortable as a watered down version of the nail scenes in Black Swan. My acidic regards to the advertising team who marketed this as an uproarious comedy.

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