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Young Adult (2011)

Unless writer and director are one and the same person, it is hard to imagine many films where the writer outglams and no doubt outnamedrops the director. But here is one such occurrence. Jason Reitman is now established as a Director of note, firing up such luminaries as Up In The Air and Thank You For Smoking. Here he teams up once again with celeb yoof writer Diablo Cody, responsible for scripting the unforgettable Juno, which Reitman also directed.

Reitman has a habit of warming up the disingenuous. A lot of his (and Cody's) seemingly favourite characters are not very likeable to begin with. Usually, by the end of the story they have to tell you, that same character has grown emotionally enough to almost pass for human. It's not always the case, but more often than not, they wilt under the power of experience and their sharp tongues inevitably track back to allow their beating heart a word in edgeways.

In Young Adult (a reference to the genre of writing as well, it seems, as the mindset of our lead) we meet Mavis, (Charlize Theron) a disenchanted and recently divorced ghost writer of 'young adult' books living in Minneapolis. She receives a surprise email whilst beginning her new book, from old flame Buddy (Patrick Wilson) living in the town of Mercury, where she went to school and a place she couldn't get out of quick enough. The email is innocent enough, announcing the arrival of his (and importantly, his wife's) new baby. Mavis gets it into her head to go back to Mercury to win back her teenhood beau, sure that her big city charms will win him over.

She hasn't been back in her home town for five minutes before she bumps into the first of the old school friends she barely recollects, that being Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt) and strikes up a kind of disinterested and often drunken friendship with him, whilst oiling up the charm wheels for Buddy. He acts as confidant and angel of conscience for the woman that apparently has none. Theron tries to play Mavis as selfish and unpalatable, yet retaining the traits that audience members can relate to. She is spoilt and selfish, but amplified, and it is easy to easy to see a common toned down and socially sanitised version of her in many people you meet every day. In this respect, Theron has achieved her goal admirably.

There are some scenes that are genuinely uncomfortable to watch as reality unravels for Mavis and you see her coming to pieces hair by hair. Lost in a town she hates with people she once understood, she is a beacon of trouble in a town that didn't miss her as much as she foolishly told herself they did.

Cody is a hit and miss writer for me, usually pandering to an audience I often do not understand. Personally, I wasn't moved by Juno at all and liked Jennifer's Body even less. Her relationship with Reitman, if this effort is anything to go by, is maturing, which is a very welcome sign. Her writing is becoming more rounded and less feisty. She is beginning to tell stories that are relatable to more than the young audience she has already garnered which can only be a good thing.

Reitman, is as true to form here as anywhere else. He continues to imbibe a sense of duck-out-of-water reality to everything he touches and this is no different. Paced just fast enough not to dawdle at any stage, Young Adult is an enjoyable backstab for Cody, with enough bite to please those with more than just pretty young things on their agenda. Better than expected.


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