Sean K. Cureton

Diablo Cody’s Response to Baumbach’s Greenberg

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on December 30, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Theatrical Poster

Young Adult
3 out of 4 stars
Directed by Jason Reitman

Director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody have teamed up again after the success of their 2007 release of Juno, which was one of the best films of that year. Now, with the release of Young Adult, both Reitman and Cody have offered a film that lives up to their previous endeavor, while also allowing them both to evolve as filmmakers.

Where Reitman’s films in the past have been fairly fast paced with polished-looking cinematography, Young Adult seems dialed down, with a slow-paced plot, dependent predominantly on dialogue, and cinematography that is a little less polished, and more realistic looking. Similarly, Cody’s script for this film is not quite so overtly witty or snarky. Instead, much of the dialogue in Young Adult is fairly conventional, and leans more toward the dramatic than the comic. This change is quite surprising at first, but allows for a movie that is ultimately more interesting than Juno, even if it is not a greater film.

Young Adult follows the almost delusional escapades of Mavis Gary, played by Academy award winning actress Charlize Theron, a ghost writer of a nominally popular young adult series of books who returns to her home town to attempt the wooing back of her now married ex-boyfriend Buddy Slade, played by Patrick Wilson, of 2005’s indie release Hard Candy. The fact that Buddy has a new born baby and is obviously devoted to his family doesn’t deter Mavis, who continues to try to woo Buddy despite the moral counsel that is continually offered to her by Matt Freehauf, a crippled geek from Mavis and Buddy’s high school graduating class, played by Patton Oswalt. Inevitably, Mavis’ selfish antics lead to a climactic scene of chaotic confrontation between Mavis, Buddy, Buddy’s wife, and numerous other characters.

While much of the film is very depressing, and a bit slow and hard to watch at times, Reitman and Cody have also made a film that is intellectually stimulating, as the film’s character study of Mavis is very well done and endlessly interesting. Attempting to figure out what it is that makes Mavis the person that she has become is what makes the film so compelling and hard to take your eyes away from, even when her behavior is completely self-absorbed and cruel.

The only thing wrong with the film’s plot comes in at the end of the film, when Mavis almost changes her personality for the better, until Matt’s sister tells Mavis how much she has always looked up to her. The reason why Matt’s sister would look up to Mavis is non-existent. Thus, there is no motive within the film for this final scene to take place. If anything, Matt’s sister should be the person who finally gets Mavis to really open up about herself. Instead, Cody decides to make Matt’s sister another enabler of Mavis’ destructive behavior, despite the fact that such an action towards Mavis is unwarranted, and leaves the viewer unsatisfied and a little confused at the end of the movie as to how to feel about any possible change in Mavis’ character over the course of the film.

In conclusion, Jason Reitman’s Young Adult is satisfying in its delivery of another great Diablo Cody script, especially after Cody’s lackluster script for 2009’s Jennifer’s Body. Young Adult is a great character study film, with stellar performances given by Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt, who jointly carry the entire picture. The fact that Theron’s character’s personal change is ultimately denied at the end of the film is admittedly a draw back. However, the rest of the film being so consistently interesting and engaging makes up for the lack of a real conclusion for Mavis’ character.


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