Animadversion: Young Adult – Reviewed by Kamran Jawaid

Young Adult’s review was published in our movie review column “Animadversion”, IMAGES on SUNDAY, 15th January 2012. This post is an updated version of the one published.


Adult, Though Not So Much

By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid

Mavis Gary is an emotionally stunted train-wreck, who authors – a word she stresses whenever someone calls her a writer – a dying series of young adult fiction. But she’s not actually the creator of the series. She’s the ghost writer. Its little departures like this, that create a realistic curve within the shockingly inspired “Young Adult”, the new dramedy staring both Charlize Theoron and midlife delusions.

One look at her and you’ll know that Mavis is a spiteful, pitiless creature, who is perpetually stuck between nostalgia and an unbending adherence to her own self-importance. A prom-queen (which we later learn she was), whose princess complex never left. She is cruel, unsentimental and a borderline alcoholic, perfected in earnest imperfection by the triumphant writing of Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman (the duo, whose previous credit was “Juno”).

We begin at her frowzy apartment in Minneapolis, one which she shares with a little dog and a television set. She’s on a deadline to finish the last of the series of novels, brought down by bad sales. And so, we see her sopping up scrupulous amount of Coke (as if water never existed), jotting down half-hearted paragraphs, and picking up hip slangs from teens working at department stores – which I am sure happens, in some manner or form, to all fiction writers trying to spark up concentration.

Mavis’ distraction isn’t simply a case of writer’s block. Her disarrayed existence is wounded because ex-beau (Patrick Wilson), living in the suburban town of Mercury, just had a baby; and now she wants him back – or at the very least liberate him from the shackles of homebound life, a facet he himself doesn’t realize, because it simply does not exist.

Theron powers up a natural multi-layered, Oscar worthy presence during the film’s magnetic 90 minute running time (in fact, I don’t even remember any scene not featuring her), and she’s given brilliant support by Patton Oswalt’s Matt – a geeky reminder of high-school violence, who works as the bookkeeper at a local bar. He also home-distills alcohol and makes custom action figures.

When they first meet, Mavis vaguely remembers him from high-school, like everyone else at Mercury, he’s at home here. Cody’s screenplay pairs them up – with reservations: Mavis tells him her plan. But this isn’t a rom-com, and Matt isn’t as much a romantic pit-stop as a small bump in the road, a facet Mavis shockingly makes clear at the film’s climax.

Shot in 30 days with a miniscule budget of $12 million, the low-key drama may feel like a rough first draft, which fixates on Mavis’ personal delusions, and ultimately her humiliation. A detached look and some pondering reveal otherwise. If “Young Adult” sounds like a run-on-the-mill multiplex fare, then banish the thought! It is Sundance all the way.

Released by Paramount. “Young Adult” is rated R for stark, biting humor and nudity.

The published version is:

15-01-2012 (Young Adult)



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