By Hemanth Kissoon
“Do you want to get loaded, or something?” Mavis (Charlize Theron) to Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt)
The arts portray male disillusionment far more often it seems than its female equivalent. We have things like THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, AMERICAN BEAUTY, FIGHT CLUB and THE WEATHER MAN. As with female teenage rebellion, female dissatisfaction is perhaps too scary a concept for some to give a voice to. It is even more potent here, being channelled through a striking Venus de Milo. Writer Diablo Cody continues with her exploration of the impact high school has on women. JUNO was stunningly written, the dialogue zinging like a 1930s screwball comedy. However, horror JENNIFER’S BODY was a bit of a misfire. It was with keen interest I anticipated whether she and director Jason Reitman could bottle lightning again. Anyone expecting a laugh-riot in the JUNO vein will be sorely disappointed. YOUNG ADULT is a different beast. There are hardly any guffaws; rather the humour is generated from melancholy and awkwardness. The film is not afraid to be abrasive and offensive, generating the biting malaise from Mavis, rather than going for broad situational gags.
We meet her as she hits her midlife crisis. Layer after layer of her veneer are incrementally peeled away to reveal a raw disappointment. Mavis is a ghost novelist for a once successful young adult series focusing on teenage hijinks and romance. Amid a period of trying to wrestle with the latest instalment, she receives an invite to her school beau’s baby shower. That is the touch paper that ignites all her frustrations, where she hatches a plan to win him back – believing that will solve all her problems.
The climax is signposted, but the resolution isn’t. YOUNG ADULT is not for those searching for catharsis. It is a wry commentary on consumerism, and Western selfishness. It taps into our age of unhappiness and discontent.