We are all doomed, you know? Hopeless, lost souls who are running in loops to try to trick ourselves into thinking we are making progress. The reality is, we are rodents on a hamster wheel. We don’t measure our own success. We measure how other people are measuring our success. Young Adult knows this. Knows that the most interesting (and awful) of us are just shuffling through our lives, no idea what we are doing or what we plan on doing next. Also, not worried about those we leave in the wake of our own inevitable explosion. People didn’t like Young Adult for how honest (and kind of hopeless) it was. But guess what? Life is full of shitty, narcissistic people who, at the end of the day, kind of suck. Life is very much hopeless at times. Deal with it. Young Adult chooses to focus on that aspect f life. The imperfect us. The sad part is, I related to the messed up people in this movie far more than I wish I did. Still, bleak and as honest as it is, Young Adult deserves a viewing by all.
First of all, Young Adult was written by the brilliant Diablo Cody. I love that woman. I think, in many ways, she is me with a vagina. I know many people lost sight of her after Juno, but that is simply because the world is full of idiots who hate honest people and hide from them. That is not a fault of hers. That is a strength. Make no mistakes. If I was given a chance to pick ten Hollywood writers I could work with over time, Cody would definitely be on the list. If that seems like a bad choice to you, might want to skip this article. You don’t belong here.
Diablo Cody is a genius. I love this woman.
So what is Young Adult about? Well, there is a stage you hit in life as an adult. A stage when your realize you can no longer cling on to your old ways, and may need to mature and grow up a little. The problem is, when you hit the stage, it gives us all denial. We fight it. Rebel against it. We cannot find comfort in knowing life is forcing us to grow up, so we do a whole bunch of stupid shit that blows up in our faces in an attempt to convince ourselves that we are still cool and important and not afraid. The problem is, every one of those things we do just proves to us what we fear. That we can’t do shit like that anymore.
Okay, vague ad cryptic enough for you? Here, have a trailer.
First of all, what IS Young Adult? I know people who walk away from it confused about what they are allowed to feel. How can you like a movie where the central character is really messed up and not that good of a person? Well, that is step one. You don’t need to like Mavis Gary (played with typical genius by Charlize Theron). She is not here to be liked. I think her character is simply there to be related to. Maybe you cannot relate Mavis. Divorced, semi-successful writer in the throes of an early mid-life crisis so she goes back to her home town to try to rekindle and old flame with an ex-love of hers from high school. Thing is, that ex-fling is now married and has a newborn daughter. The problem is, Mavis doesn’t give a shit. She is feeling less than stellar after a divorce and just wants what she wants, despite what it may cost her (and him).
He didn’t actually ask her to sign it.
But upon returning to town, she is met with Matt. A dude she uses to go to high school with who has gay bashed (to the point of being crippled back in high school) even though he is not gay. Matt is played by the always brilliant Patton Oswalt, and this portrayal is a revelation. You will see strong and vulnerable. You see want and disgust. He wears these emotions, and carries the movie by being the one character who seems to have an actual moral compass.
The majority of the movie is these two, shooting the shit. With Matt trying to talk Mavis out of her insane idea to bang a married man. It is quite clear that Matt is somewhat smitten with Mavis, and this dynamic that plays out across the film is very much the heart of the story. The thing is, Mavis is pretty messed up. I cannot stress this enough. She is not what one would normally call a “good person”. She wants what she wants, and cares little about anything else. She seems stuck in a time that she felt represented her better, and even though everyone thinks she is some uber-successful writer (trust me, this happens in real life), she is barely making any money and hasn’t written anything meaningful after the Twilight style dribble she spilled out years earlier. Basically, after a nasty divorce, this woman feels the ground slipping out from under her, and tries to find her footing in the worst ways possible.
As crazy as it may sound, Patton Oswalt steals the movie as Matt.
Again, I need to stress this. Mavis is not someone you will like. I only liked her because I recognized bits of myself in her. Unless you are a hack of a writer who makes horrible decisions, you might not. But that is okay. That is an essential part of the story. You will see just how wounded she is, and as oppose to hating or liking her, you will find yourself taking the same feelings as those in town who encounter her. You will pity her. This will culminate in a scene between Matt and Mavis, both rain soaked, that will make you realize just how wounded they both really are.
Smoking weed in a parked car while contemplating life with a friend? Yup. I know that scenario well.
Young Adult is directed superbly by Jason Reitman, and has the balls and bravery to shine a light on those of us who still have a great deal of growing to do. Still have no idea what we are doing, even though we are doing it. And are rallying against being adults, even though we are too stupid to realize, it’s too late. We already are adults. Everything we do to fight that just makes us look like assholes.