Young Adult wasn’t the film I thought it’d be. I imagined it was Charlize Theron’s attempt at comedy, playing a character that was obnoxious, deluded and spoke her mind. A character that you would want to be like, being able to say what you felt with no remorse or sense of regret. I imagined it was Theron’s Bad Teacher.
That wasn’t what this film was at all. What you actually have is another subtle but compelling Theron performance that proves how great an actress she is. It’s a film more akin to what she produced in Monster than it is to Cameron Diaz’s teacher.
What’s interesting is that Diaz’s character and Theron’s in Young Adult are very similar. They share the same values and attitude to other people and their own lives. They are both looking for an idealistic life, which they believe they are owed through some delusion of their own creation. The main difference is that Diaz’s character is played for comedy while Theron’s is played for dramatic effect, and ultimately, has a much more tragic and desperate journey.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t some light-appeal to the movie. There are moments of comedy, the best scenes being the ones shared by Theron’s Mavis and Matt, played by Patton Oswald. He plays a character that is as trapped in the past as Theron’s is, but with much more realisation and grasp of his situation. What I thought was going to be a straight-forward comic relief character, actually has much more impact on the film and the development of Theron’s character.
In fact, the whole film is full of great, supportive characters for Theron to interact with, each highlighting how desperate and deluded her character has become. The perfect example isn’t the relationship with the man she has gone home to reconnect with, regardless of his wife and newborn child, but with her parents. It’s a simple conversation around a dinner table that starts to bring home the desperation and faults that Theron’s character has. It’s a great example of playing the drama in a subtle way, to that when things do explode, it has more impact.
Ultimately though, this is the Charlize Theron show and she excels. She has a great scowl, a perfect, condescending tone and then plays the moments of utter desperation or cold realisation brilliantly. What could easily have been written as a black comedy, with Theron playing the foul-mouthed, obnoxious but ultimately appealing Mavis, is instead a great character drama with huge moments of emotion and tension, creating a character that is at no point appealing or charming.
The drama is extentuated even further with the stark, bleak ending. I made a huge mistake in thinking Young Adult would be a slick comedy starring a great actress. Instead, I got a pleasant surprise with a drama that was just as slick and demonstrated what that a great actress could do.
Overall, Young Adult is a showcase for Charlize Theron’s acting talents. It’s not a huge, dramatic performance but something much more subtle and personal. It has great characters, an excellent performance from Oswald Patton and a story which presents the story of a tragic character who is engaging and interesting to watch.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)