Saturday, 16 June 2012

Young Adult

2011, 15, Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt, Elizabeth Reaser

Jason Reitman’s latest is quite similar to his previous forays into filmmaking, which has established him as somebody who likes to select an actor, then brandish them on screen for pretty much the entire running time. Aaron Eckhart in Thank You for Smoking; George Clooney in Up in the Air; he even went so far as to carve a star out of Ellen Page in Juno, the latter in which he teamed up with credible oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody to churn out an ever-quotable tale about teen pregnancy. Re-teaming with Cody, Reitman’s Young Adult has much of the same appeal, but with a hint of tragedy. The person to take centre stage here is Charlize Theron, delivering yet another performance that could be branded ‘career best’. Here, she plays Mavis Gary, a thirty-something young adult novelist who ventures back to her hometown in Minnesota upon hearing that her childhood sweetheart, Buddy (Patrick Wilson) is now happily married with a child. For someone who carries the film, Mavis’ redeeming qualities are hard to come by; if she’s not fast-food scoffing or coke-guzzling, she’s necking shots or poking fun at a crippled man she barely remembers from her school days (a role with which comedian Patton Oswalt provides unlikely heart and soul in a film largely lacking in optimism.) Tasking herself with basically wrecking the happiness of somebody she still believes she loves, the embarrassing futility of her situation eventually pays off when, in what one could assume is a perfectly nuanced scene from Reitman, Cody and everybody in front of the camera, you realise how deeply scarred our protagonist actually is. It is to Cody’s credit that she ditches the Hollywood detox of unhappiness usually required to ensure an upbeat ending. Instead, as Reitman draws the film to a close with no fear of outstaying its welcome, the overarching feeling of pessimism may come out of nowhere to slap you in the face, luckily with Theron’s performance shining brighter than you ever could imagine.