Jim Reviews Young Adult

Young Adult

I have never made even the slightest attempt to hide my complete and utter disdain for the movie “Juno.” From my very first viewing I found it insufferable. I hated the characters, found the dialogue unbearable in it’s hipster cuteness, and in general found it to be one of the least pleasant movie going experiences I’ve ever had.

Apparently, I am in a very small minority with this reaction. During the screening every person in the theatre was laughing hysterically at every line that had even the promise of comedy. I was able to identify every intended joke, but they elicited little more than a mental groan from me. Don’t get me wrong, I found the term “pork sword” to be screamingly hysterical… when I was in middle school. So it struck me odd that I was sitting there in a room full of adults who unleashed torrents of gut busting laughter at its utterance.

I kept looking around to see if people were maybe listening to something different on headphones or something, like maybe everyone else was given an iPod with a bunch of Richard Pryor or George Carlin stuff on them and that was what they were laughing at. Honestly, I cannot accurately describe how little I liked this movie.

And don’t try to change my mind on this one. Many people have, and have left the conversation liking “Juno,” less. I have put much more thought into my reasons for hating it than you have put into your reasons for liking it.

“Juno,” was followed up by “Jennifer’s Body,” which found a way to be worse. That thing… oh, crap was that thing awful. I didn’t eve bother finishing it. It honestly felt like she somehow heard my criticism and responded, “Oh, you think that one sucked? Son, I’ll show you a movie that sucks.”

Hell, casting Amanda Seyfried as the “plain” girl who is too into her popular, beautiful friend and then naming her “Needy” Lesnicky… I don’t even know how to respond to that. Why not just remove all subtext and call her “Codependance McSexuallyConfused.”

I haven’t seen “United States of Tara,” because it looks stupid. Yes, Toni Colette is a fine actress and all, but this show always looked like crap to me. Yeah, people love it and say it’s brilliant… just like they did about “Juno,’ so that means nothing to me. There is too much great television out there for me to waste my time on something I have no interest in.

All of her writing looks like this to me

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Now we have “Young Adult.” From the moment the first poster hit the net I was dubious to say the least. It looked like… well, like more crap from a writer I do not like. The reviews hit and it was more of the same. It appeared as though Cody’s deal with Satan was still in full swing. But I was given some pause. People who I actually respect, and who dislike “Juno,” were actually behind it. They didn’t love it, but they gave it an “it’s not so bad,” pass.

So, I sat down and watched it. And…

Meh.

That’s about all I can say about it. It isn’t terrible or terribly good. It’s ok. There were some things I found interesting in it, but mostly I found it to be pretty forgettable. I think the word I am looking for is “bad.”

“Young Adult,” features yet another unsympathetic protagonist. Note, I didn’t say unlikable, I said unsympathetic. Likeable is too subjective a term, and I have no problem with an unlikable character. Hell, there are some characters that I love for their unlikability. There are characters I HATE that other people absolutely adore. But sympathy… that’s a little more universal.

Juno, I didn’t like her, but I could sympathize with her. I mean, that is a difficult position for a teenager to be in. Granted, I think she behaved like an asshole, but I could sympathize.

The protagonist of “Young Adult,” is Mavis Gary, a recently divorced ghostwriter for a series of young adult novels. She was the coolest, prettiest girl in her high school and is now living a somewhat glamorous life in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Things aren’t going great for her. As I said, she just got divorced, the book series she writes for is being cancelled, she has a very serious drinking problem (by that I mean she is a full blown alcoholic), and to top things off she just got an e-mail from her high school boyfriend announcing the birth of his first child.

So she does what any normal, rational, mature human being would. She drives back to her hometown to try and steal this man away from his wife and child.

Up until that last bit, this is a character that I could see as compelling. She is a train wreck in full crisis mode. Right off the bat I was, if nothing else, curious about this person. I mean, this is someone who has it all. Good job, hell, GREAT job. She gets paid to do what thousands of people would literally kill to do. She is beautiful, successful, and there is no reason why she shouldn’t be happy.

But she isn’t.

Who can’t relate to that? We have all had times in our lives when things were going as well as we could hope, but for some reason it’s just not enough. The one thing you need to be happy isn’t there. You may not even know what it is, but you know that it’s missing.

This is a good basis for a character. There is a possibility for depth and empathy if they are handled properly. The problem with this movie is that you have a brilliantly set up, horribly executed person.

What starts out with the promise of depth quickly vanishes into a one-dimensional, ID driven monster that I can’t describe as unlikable because there isn’t anything to really connect to.

Not only that, but she is a completely static character. She doesn’t grow, she doesn’t change, and she doesn’t evolve. She is just as revolting a human being at the end as she was at the beginning.

Now, I am not saying that a character has to go through a huge change and learn a big lesson that changes their life in order for it to be a good movie, but there has to be some level of growth in order for the conflict to have any meaning. I know that this doesn’t always happen in real life, but this is a movie and not giving your character some level of growth or self-awareness is just lazy.

There is some really great stuff in this movie, but almost all of it is tempered by something that doesn’t work.

Patton Oswalt is fantastic as Matt Freehauf, an outcast Mavis went to high school with. His performance is probably the best thing about the movie.

But, I just didn’t buy his character. Here’s a guy that Mavis only remembers as “The Hate Crime Guy,” because in high school a bunch of jocks thought he was gay and beat him with a crowbar, crippling him, mangling his genitals, and then left him for dead in the woods. I don’t understand why he puts up with her. This is a woman who represents everything that caused him to be brutalized. Not that she formerly symbolized it, but that she currently symbolizes it. She is the exact same superficial piece of trash she was in high school, but she speaks to him and suddenly, he’s like a puppy falling at her feet. I just didn’t buy it. I am speaking as someone who was bullied in middle school. There is no part of me that would be willing to hang out with the person who did that to me, or with someone who facilitated what happened.

But other than the unrealistic relationship they formed, Oswalt created a completely believable and sympathetic man who has gone through some shit and is somehow able to maintain his dignity.

The direction is superb. Jason Reitman is really shaping up to be one of the best directors working today. He has a feel for character, pacing, and visuals that is absolutely incredible.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but my problems with this movie come back to the script. Granted, it wasn’t soaked with banal hipster dialogue like “Juno,” and “Jennifer’s Body,” but it was just lacking. It felt like a half developed premise that Cody didn’t feel the need to go back and hone. By the time the movie was over I found myself searching for a point.

Because, let’s be honest, this is a movie without a point or anything to really say. What was I supposed to take away from this? Am I supposed to feel sorry for Mavis because she has everything except fulfillment? Was I supposed to hate her? Was I supposed to pity her? What? What was the point of this?

All “Young Adult” gives you is a narcissistic borderline sociopath who feels entitled to everything and doesn’t care in the slightest about anyone other than herself. I wouldn’t have a problem with that if she had at least been interesting.



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