Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Young Adult (Rhoades)

“Young Adult” - A Case of
Arrested Development

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Through circumstances I won’t detail, back in my single days I once dated a stripper. An ecdysiast, if you want to dress it up. But it’s hard to dress up strippers.

She was a nice enough young adult who happened to make her living shedding her clothes to the tune of “A Fifth of Beethoven.” She had a fondness for classical music.

What I learned is that, thanks to her profession, she also had a slightly askew view of the world. Not so much cynical as one of arrested development. Not quite in tune with everyday society. A self-centered attitude. Bratty.

Hot Hollywood screenwriter Diablo Cody was a stripper before she hit it big with her script for the movie “Juno.” A spiky-haired blonde (née Brook Busey), she has an acerbic, tongue-in-cheek viewpoint that gives her scripts a zing. She’s known for her “sharp and sarcastic voice.”

Cody does it again with “Young Adult,” the new Charlize Theron comedy that’s currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

Our heroine (no, protagonist is a better word) writes YA novels that appeal to teens. Mavis (played by Diablo Cody look-alike Charlize Theron) is good at her job, because she has the emotional maturity of a teenager. A Young Adult herself, even though she’s now in her late 30s.

In this time warp Mavis is mildly dissatisfied with her life, longing for – as she saw it – the glory days of high school. So leaving the Twin Cities (Diablo Cody herself used to live in Minneapolis) our girl returns to her hometown of Mercury, MN, in search of that lost youth. Or more specifically she goes with the obsessive intent of reclaiming her high school sweetheart, no matter that he’s now married with a kid.

Reason does not apply. Well, reason as you and I know it.

Mavis dolls herself up to convince old boyfriend Buddy (a bewildered Patrick Wilson) to run away with her. However, he – like the audience – thinks she’s a bit mad.

“Young Adult” has the expected bundle of clichés, but turned on their ear. Mavis is a without-a-clue city mouse who gets her comeuppance from those nice small-town folks. But not in the way you might expect. And you’ll want her, according to formula, to wind up with the right guy (i.e. not Buddy). As it turns out, she does, at least enough to satisfy the audience’s unsure expectations.

The not-quite-right other guy is Matt (Patton Oswalt), a geek who makes his own action figures and owns a collection of outdated indie-rock T-shirts. Choices aren’t big in a small town.

Charlize Theron won an Academy award for her starring turn in “Monster.” Here, she’s a different kind of monster, an unlikable Platinum princess who is spoiled, self-absorbed, and slightly out of touch with reality. It takes courage for an actress to take on these kinds of roles, characters that the audience can’t quite connect with.

Director Jason Reitman is on comfortable ground. He collaborated with Diablo Cody on “Juno.” And he gave us the masterful “Up in the Air” with George Clooney. He doesn’t flinch when presenting Mavis, a woman who has avoided the human capacity to grow and change.

Mavis seemed kinda familiar to me. In this case, a woman listening to retro music by Teenage Fanclub instead of “A Fifth of Beethoven.”
[from Solares Hill]

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