She’s written one of my least favorite films of the last few five years. He’s directed two films I’ve enjoyed. As a team their success confuses me.
Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody have teamed up once again. The duo who brought you the terrible, unfunny and painful Juno now bring you Young Adult.
Sorry, I had to get my snark out of the way early here.
In all reality, Young Adult is a really decent film. Slightly above average even. Starring Charlize Theron as Mavis Gary, the depressed, unhappy, confused, delirious, stupid and likely alcoholic who leaves her cushy big city apartment to try and rekindle the fire she once had with her love of her life, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), who’s living in their hometown with his wife and newborn daughter. What a story!
Young Adult should probably be labeled a dark comedy. It makes you laugh (snicker, mostly, because Cody is unfunny), it makes you feel pain (a loathing, uncaring kind of pain) and actually has you reel in your seat as the awkward third act plays out, unraveling our Mavis Gary into an explosion of moron-itis.
Finding herself an unlikely friend in Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), the fat, abused nerd she didn’t pay an ounce of attention to in high school, Mavis concocts herself an outrageously stupid, delusional and desperate attempt at getting back together with Buddy. Did I mention that Matt just happens to have had his locker next to Mavis’ in high school? Oh gee Diablo Cody, what a fucking plot point you wrote into your genius story there. I’m floored at this unlikely turn of events and hilarious character development. Man she’s actually building a relationship with this guy. It’s a weird relationship, but she’s building it. Who would have thought this unlikely relationship would have grown like that. I totally didn’t see these characters doing that. Shit man. Diablo. Brilliant.
So there’s Mavis – a terrible, depressed alcoholic. Unbearable really. There she is trying to get back together with Buddy. She spruces up. Ounces and ounces of makeup – is this real life? Diablo was a stripper, so I am not sure if she has the right idea with how much makeup girls wear. But then again neither do I. Or is she making some not so subtle reference to Mavis’ vanity-obsessed lifestyle? “Do you have Marc Jacobs?” Mavis asks the clerk at Macy’s. Haha oh man. Look at that.
Yeah, that’s what she’s referencing and none of us have to even guess. Nothing about Young Adult, outside of Reitman’s ability to tell a story, is very subtle. Mavis happens to also be a ghost writer for a series of young adult books. Haha get the title now? Oh wow. Also, Mavis is like a young adult because she hasn’t grown past her fairy tale stage. This just keeps getting deeper. And so when Mavis is behaving like a fool and plotting her every step, she reads pages from the final book in the series she’s currently writing on the trip. Each page mirrors a moment in Mavis’ life, like she’s some kind of broken, disturbed but brilliant mind who comes up with “textually compatible” and other things today’s youth wouldn’t say. No wait, that’s just Diablo Cody, who came up with hamburger phones and the phrase “honest to blog” in order to win a god damn Academy Award.
I have no idea how Theron actually turned Cody’s screenplay into the performance she did. She carries this film. Reitman’s direction is fine, but nothing to jump out at. It’s glossed over and blah. Whatever. But Theron is powerful, a result you would expect from one of today’s finer young actresses. Not Oscar worthy by any means, but she really ties Cody’s crap together and saves the day. She makes this an awkward, sometimes interesting and actually worthwhile film.
Cody would serve well in getting a lesson in subtlety and nuance. Not every feeling, emotion or epiphany needs to be explained to the audience in full detail. Mavis has this absurd lesson learning (well to her depraved mind at least) at the very end of the film and it sent me into a maddening frenzy. I get the ironic nature of the lesson she’s being “taught” by another loser she ignored in high school who incorrectly tells her she has all she needs to be happy and would actually like it if the results weren’t so damned in my face. It terrifies me to know that Diablo Cody holds the screenplay to the Evil Dead remake in her hands.
Young Adult probably won’t drive much anger from most viewers. It’s actually a good film, but I have much contempt for the screenplay delivered by Cody here. Its shoved in your face and doesn’t let you breathe for a second. It doesn’t let you think of anything on your own, spelling out every character interaction, thought and moment without you having to do any of the work – setting sail on a course for disaster: losing your audience involvement. Luckily, both Reitman and Theron are able to turn this into something worth seeing. Meh.