Young Adult (2011)

Young Adult
Director: Jason Reitman
Writer: Diablo Cody
Cast: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser

Mavis (Charlize Theron) lives from a young adult book series she basically ghostwrote and is currently desperately struggling to finish the last book. Into her booze-filled void of a life comes the announcement that her high school sweetheart Buddy (Patrick Wilson) has had a baby. On a whim, Mavis drives to her hometown to try and win Buddy back. But Buddy is actually quite happy and Mavis is actually quite broken, so things don’t look too good.

I don’t exactly know what I expected of this film, but it definitely wasn’t what I got. I guess I thought this movie would be funny? Instead it was one of the most depressing and bitter films I’ve ever seen. I didn’t care much for it.

I can handle sadness in movies. I can handle it when people don’t get what they deserve in a film (either good or bad). I can handle desperation. I can handle cynicism. What I can’t deal with is when movies get bitter. And this film completely lost me when Mavis admitted that she had a problem, not once but twice, and one time she is ignored and the other time she gets an honest to goodness pep talk that completely reinforces her entire psychosis.

And I’m not denying that this is entirely realistic: many people don’t spot mental illness, or if they do, they choose to ignore it or find other explanations. It is not surprising that Mavis would go untreated. But that’s exactly why I think that if you portray mental illness in such a realistic way, you should at least show the options people have. Instead, Mavis gets a pep talk that her mental illness is the only thing that makes her special and awesome. And then the “baggage of the past just falls away from her” and I’m almost entirely certain that we are supposed to believe that this is a happy ending. The fuck?

But even though I don’t agree with how the story went, Diablo Cody and Charlize Theron did an amazing job with Mavis. She feels completely real. She’s notably crazy, without being movie-crazy. A complex and layered portrayal from both of them.

But apart from that, the movie didn’t have much to give and it ended up being strangely empty.

Summarising: It is interesting, but not necessarily in a good way.

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