First Review for Young Adult, Darker Reitman, Change of Pace for Theron

Thanks to David Poland for linking to this early review of Young Adult, which quietly screened in the twin cities. The review says it’s new territory for a Hollywood film to showcase a female anti-hero, which translates as — Charlize Theron playing an unlikable character. This is in contrast to the early word that this was her “Jerry Maguire,” as that character couldn’t be more likable. Although Tom Cruise did play someone unlikable, brilliantly, I might add, in Magnolia. For Reitman fans who prefer his darker films (raises hand) this should be thick and juicy:

Edgy, subversive and hilariously embarrassing, “Young Adult” undercuts the conventions of female-centered comedies at each turn. It manages to keep us invested in the story despite focusing almost every scene on a thoroughly unpleasant protagonist. The supporting characters provide the homespun humanity Mavis lacks, especially Wilson as the bland new papa and Elizabeth Reaser as his funloving wife.
Theron delivers a brave, darkly amusing performance as a one-time alpha female realizing that life is passing her by. In her scenes with Oswalt, Theron drops her character’s mask of mean girl poise, revealing the fear, loneliness and confusion beneath. “Young Adult’s” skepticism that Mavis can fan these flickers of self-awareness into a flame of understanding is a guage of its sophistication. Cody and Reitman would rather close their film on a lifelike, unresolved note than force its characters into a contrived happy ending. Audiences may not embrace Mavis immediately — she’s too spiky for that. But there’s little doubt that in time she’ll join Marge Gunderson and Juno Temple as one of Minnesota’s emduring and iconic film characters.

When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose, as Dylan would say; having not won the Oscar in an 11th hour shocker, Jason Reitman is perhaps freed up to do what he was born to do: tell great stories. The mushy Oscar stuff? Leave that to the British. Just kidding. Looking forward to Young Adult – and liking this year’s females kicking doors down — in Bridesmaids, being gross and funny and making a lot of money while doing so, in The Help – headlining a movie with, gasp, black characters that also owned the box office? What in the world is happening?

62 Comments on this Post

  1. The Jack

    It hate to break it to you, Sasha, but you know what producers are going to say about the success of ‘The Help’? It was based on audience familiarity of the book, and it has a white protagonist to give us an “in”. It’s not going to make them braver about greenlighting more movies with black female characters.

  2. The Jack

    It hate to break it to you, Sasha, but you know what producers are going to say about the success of ‘The Help’? It was based on audience familiarity of the book, and it has a white protagonist to give us an “in”. It’s not going to make them braver about greenlighting more movies with black female characters.

  3. really wasn’t a fan of the script.
    I’m hoping that they made some changes to the shooting script.

  4. really wasn’t a fan of the script.
    I’m hoping that they made some changes to the shooting script.

  5. Sasha Stone

    The Jack, doesn’t that just mean they’ll work harder to FIND those kinds of books? The Help didn’t get published until it was going to be a movie, I don’t think….

  6. Sasha Stone

    The Jack, doesn’t that just mean they’ll work harder to FIND those kinds of books? The Help didn’t get published until it was going to be a movie, I don’t think….

  7. I dont think Theron is the first to do that this year…what about Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher. Granted that was not the best movie, but it was widely embraced by audiences and it was sold almost entirely on Diaz playing an unlikable female character.

  8. I dont think Theron is the first to do that this year…what about Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher. Granted that was not the best movie, but it was widely embraced by audiences and it was sold almost entirely on Diaz playing an unlikable female character.

  9. Casey Fiore

    What is a return to form from a Director coming off his best reviewed film?

  10. Casey Fiore

    What is a return to form from a Director coming off his best reviewed film?

  11. @ Casey Fiore

    I agree. Reitman took a hit when he lost the adapted screenplay Oscar, but that doesn’t detract from the fact (in my opinion), that it was his best film. There’s a good reason it was the early frontrunner.

    Good on Hollywood for trusting scripts about female anti-heroes at last. That said, Kristen Wiig, Cameron Diaz, Emma Stone, Charlize Theron? All sexy blonde babes. Not much of a revolution.

  12. @ Casey Fiore

    I agree. Reitman took a hit when he lost the adapted screenplay Oscar, but that doesn’t detract from the fact (in my opinion), that it was his best film. There’s a good reason it was the early frontrunner.

    Good on Hollywood for trusting scripts about female anti-heroes at last. That said, Kristen Wiig, Cameron Diaz, Emma Stone, Charlize Theron? All sexy blonde babes. Not much of a revolution.

  13. “For Reitman fans who prefer his darker films (raises hand)”

    Has Jason Reitman made a dark film? I only count three films on his resume, none of them dark…

  14. “For Reitman fans who prefer his darker films (raises hand)”

    Has Jason Reitman made a dark film? I only count three films on his resume, none of them dark…

  15. julian the emperor

    I agree, John G. Not much darkness in Reitman’s films. They are fun, light-hearted entertainment with a brain. And maybe a bit cynical, therefore. But a healthy dose of cynicism hardly equates with “dark” films…?

  16. julian the emperor

    I agree, John G. Not much darkness in Reitman’s films. They are fun, light-hearted entertainment with a brain. And maybe a bit cynical, therefore. But a healthy dose of cynicism hardly equates with “dark” films…?

  17. Rietman has peaked with each of his film, Up in the Air being his best. Don’t know how “return to form” is apt?

  18. Rietman has peaked with each of his film, Up in the Air being his best. Don’t know how “return to form” is apt?

  19. Saw this on Tuesday here in Toronto. Diablo Cody and Rason Reitman were there, and after the film there was a small Q&A.
    I’m not sure if the audience loved it as much as I did: it was dark and uncomfortable.

    What I must praise is the movie’s risk to go beyond a very good performance and an interesting script. It has many layers concerning what a movie is, what it should be and all the “whys” in between.

    Amazing for me, but not your conventional film, maybe too different for awards.

  20. Saw this on Tuesday here in Toronto. Diablo Cody and Rason Reitman were there, and after the film there was a small Q&A.
    I’m not sure if the audience loved it as much as I did: it was dark and uncomfortable.

    What I must praise is the movie’s risk to go beyond a very good performance and an interesting script. It has many layers concerning what a movie is, what it should be and all the “whys” in between.

    Amazing for me, but not your conventional film, maybe too different for awards.

  21. Does he mean Juno MacGuff? Certainly not Juno Temple…

  22. Does he mean Juno MacGuff? Certainly not Juno Temple…

  23. I have a hard time believing that I would want anything other than for Theron’s character to fall flat on her face.

  24. I have a hard time believing that I would want anything other than for Theron’s character to fall flat on her face.

  25. 1. Poland raved over Margot at the Wedding, which many are making direct comparisons to as far as tone, yes? Probably meaningless, but worth noting, potentially.

    2. Juno Temple is an actress. Juno MacGuff is a Minnesota classic character.

  26. 1. Poland raved over Margot at the Wedding, which many are making direct comparisons to as far as tone, yes? Probably meaningless, but worth noting, potentially.

    2. Juno Temple is an actress. Juno MacGuff is a Minnesota classic character.

  27. Cameron Diaz did similar on ‘Bad Teacher’ it’s not a hard sell getting tall drop dead beautiful blonde actresses to play mean while people still remain attracted to them. The audience won’t turn on them, we are trained to love pretty people and overlook their faults. When they find an unattractive actress to lead a dark comedy then the sexes will be closer to equal. The male actors don’t have to be hot or in shape.

  28. Cameron Diaz did similar on ‘Bad Teacher’ it’s not a hard sell getting tall drop dead beautiful blonde actresses to play mean while people still remain attracted to them. The audience won’t turn on them, we are trained to love pretty people and overlook their faults. When they find an unattractive actress to lead a dark comedy then the sexes will be closer to equal. The male actors don’t have to be hot or in shape.

  29. Kevin Klawitter

    I love me some Jason Reitman, and another team-up with Diablo Cody seemed to have “Win” printed all over it from the start. I’m particularly interested in Patton Oswalt’s performance. Somehow, he seems like a natural foil or costar for somebody like Theron.

  30. Kevin Klawitter

    I love me some Jason Reitman, and another team-up with Diablo Cody seemed to have “Win” printed all over it from the start. I’m particularly interested in Patton Oswalt’s performance. Somehow, he seems like a natural foil or costar for somebody like Theron.

  31. Pierre de Plume

    Judging from the clip at the above link, I”m not convinced Theron has pulled off this character. Maybe she was spending too much time working on her abs.

  32. Pierre de Plume

    Judging from the clip at the above link, I”m not convinced Theron has pulled off this character. Maybe she was spending too much time working on her abs.

  33. Well, I’m so Theronacized that anything she does is at least worth a view. I’m not much of a critic, except when it comes to things I don’t like.

  34. Well, I’m so Theronacized that anything she does is at least worth a view. I’m not much of a critic, except when it comes to things I don’t like.

  35. Daniel B.

    Aren’t you a little tired of shading “The King’s Speech”? (btw the best movie of the previous year – I know that this will irritate you) Please let go.

  36. Daniel B.

    Aren’t you a little tired of shading “The King’s Speech”? (btw the best movie of the previous year – I know that this will irritate you) Please let go.

  37. Graysmith

    Did Reitman make a lousy flop in-between this movie and Up in the Air that I didn’t hear about? What else would warrant the “return to form” comment?

  38. Graysmith

    Did Reitman make a lousy flop in-between this movie and Up in the Air that I didn’t hear about? What else would warrant the “return to form” comment?

  39. Sasha Stone

    Rietman has peaked with each of his film, Up in the Air being his best. Don’t know how “return to form” is apt?

    For me he has never topped Thank You for Smoking.

  40. Sasha Stone

    Rietman has peaked with each of his film, Up in the Air being his best. Don’t know how “return to form” is apt?

    For me he has never topped Thank You for Smoking.

  41. Sasha Stone

    Has Jason Reitman made a dark film? I only count three films on his resume, none of them dark…

    I count Thank You For Smoking — you could almost count Up in the Air too if you wanted to. The film’s problem was that it wanted to go much darker but had to go for the uplift in the end. Sure, we’re not talking Fincher dark, we’re not talking Cronenberg or David Lynch dark, but for a mainstream filmmaker? Reitman hints at that, I think.

  42. Sasha Stone

    Has Jason Reitman made a dark film? I only count three films on his resume, none of them dark…

    I count Thank You For Smoking — you could almost count Up in the Air too if you wanted to. The film’s problem was that it wanted to go much darker but had to go for the uplift in the end. Sure, we’re not talking Fincher dark, we’re not talking Cronenberg or David Lynch dark, but for a mainstream filmmaker? Reitman hints at that, I think.

  43. Sasha Stone

    What is a return to form from a Director coming off his best reviewed film?

    That’s a good point if you only define artistic form that way. All I’m saying is that I responded better to Thank You for Smoking than to his subsequent two films. Is this such a hard concept to grasp? I suppose if I’d left off that sentence you might actually be talking about the film itself?

  44. Sasha Stone

    What is a return to form from a Director coming off his best reviewed film?

    That’s a good point if you only define artistic form that way. All I’m saying is that I responded better to Thank You for Smoking than to his subsequent two films. Is this such a hard concept to grasp? I suppose if I’d left off that sentence you might actually be talking about the film itself?

  45. Sasha Stone

    Good point, Nic. Off my radar, Bad Teacher, but a good point for sure.

  46. Sasha Stone

    Good point, Nic. Off my radar, Bad Teacher, but a good point for sure.

  47. Love me some Charlize.

  48. Love me some Charlize.

  49. RE the success of THE HELP if the fact that 26 years ago THE COLOUR PURPLE (a story with no white lead in characters)becoming the 4th highest grossing movie domestically of it’s release year didn’t convince studios to provide black actresses with more opportunities then I don’t see why there will be any difference.

  50. RE the success of THE HELP if the fact that 26 years ago THE COLOUR PURPLE (a story with no white lead in characters)becoming the 4th highest grossing movie domestically of it’s release year didn’t convince studios to provide black actresses with more opportunities then I don’t see why there will be any difference.

  51. Can hardly wait for this to come out. I hope Cody toned down the dialogues a little for this film though. None of these characters are in high school anymore.

  52. Can hardly wait for this to come out. I hope Cody toned down the dialogues a little for this film though. None of these characters are in high school anymore.

  53. Can’t wait!!! Love some Charlize ! what a versatile talented actress she is always suprising, always reinvents herself , a true cameleon, and love me some Reitman, Oscar winner Reitman + Oscar winner Theron = Fire works and oscar expectations !!

  54. Can’t wait!!! Love some Charlize ! what a versatile talented actress she is always suprising, always reinvents herself , a true cameleon, and love me some Reitman, Oscar winner Reitman + Oscar winner Theron = Fire works and oscar expectations !!

  55. David Lynch dark, but for a mainstream?

  56. David Lynch dark, but for a mainstream?

  57. I saw Young Adult at a surprise screening yesterday in Chicago. The film is an interesting one. It is a film that will be unbelievably hard to market to the American people, one many people may hate, but a film that is hilarious and in the end, in my opinion, a great movie.

    Charlize Theron gives a fantastic performance, never flinching away from the nastiness and darkness the role requires. Her character’s arc is not one that allows for redemption. It is fairly truncated. The audience sees this woman at her worst and unlike other films, Bridesmaids for example, she does not redeem herself in the end. She is the same person she was at the beginning of the film. Patton Oswalt is great as well. He should find a home in Supporting Actor, if enough people see the film and are not immediately turned off.

    Skipping the festival circuit was probably a smart route for Reitman and the movie. This movie does not scream Oscar, and that can be quite a negative thing in many of the film bloggers eyes. It is not Up in the Air and it is certainly not Juno, but one has to respect Cody and Reitman for bringing such an interesting, horrible, yet true person to the screen.

  58. I saw Young Adult at a surprise screening yesterday in Chicago. The film is an interesting one. It is a film that will be unbelievably hard to market to the American people, one many people may hate, but a film that is hilarious and in the end, in my opinion, a great movie.

    Charlize Theron gives a fantastic performance, never flinching away from the nastiness and darkness the role requires. Her character’s arc is not one that allows for redemption. It is fairly truncated. The audience sees this woman at her worst and unlike other films, Bridesmaids for example, she does not redeem herself in the end. She is the same person she was at the beginning of the film. Patton Oswalt is great as well. He should find a home in Supporting Actor, if enough people see the film and are not immediately turned off.

    Skipping the festival circuit was probably a smart route for Reitman and the movie. This movie does not scream Oscar, and that can be quite a negative thing in many of the film bloggers eyes. It is not Up in the Air and it is certainly not Juno, but one has to respect Cody and Reitman for bringing such an interesting, horrible, yet true person to the screen.

  59. Thank You for Smoking was only dark for a few scenes: 1) Sam Elliot 2) the kidnapping. Beyond that it was pretty cheery and fun.

  60. Thank You for Smoking was only dark for a few scenes: 1) Sam Elliot 2) the kidnapping. Beyond that it was pretty cheery and fun.

  61. I agree Thank You for Smoking was Reitman’s best so far.

  62. I agree Thank You for Smoking was Reitman’s best so far.

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