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Young Adult (Blu-ray Review)

9 Mar, 2012 By: John Latchem

Street 3/13/12
Box Office $16.31 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for language and some sexual content.
Stars Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser, Collette Wolfe, Jill Eikenberry, Mary Beth Hurt.

In case you haven’t been keeping track, Jason Reitman has built up an impressive directorial track record that includes Thank You for Smoking, Juno and Up in the Air. Don’t fret if you don’t remember; there’s a logo touting his filmography on the Blu-ray box art for his fourth film, Young Adult.

Some might consider that bragging. But at this point in his career, Reitman’s films have been so consistently excellent that it’s fair to rank him in that select category of directors who have earned a legitimate following of fans ready to soak up any new addition to his canon. (Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg and Kevin Smith would be other examples.)

For Young Adult, Reitman reunites with his Juno screenwriter, Diablo Cody, for a story about a woman incapable of growing beyond who she was in high school.

Charlize Theron turns in a terrific performance as Mavis Gary, a 37-year-old author of a popular young adult book series. Mavis spends most of her days sleeping in, playing Wii, keeping her Minneapolis apartment unkempt and neglecting her dog. On one listless day, she receives an email announcing that her high school boyfriend has had a baby. In a moment of self-pity, Mavis decides to head back to her smalltown home in a misguided attempt to win him back, regardless of how happily married he seems to be.

Once back in town, she reconnects with not only her ex, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), but also Matt (Patton Oswalt), a geeky loner who has to walk with a cane after being beat up by jocks who thought he was gay. Turns out Matt is the only one willing to call out Mavis for her wrong-headed behavior, but she puts up with it because he shares her bitter distaste for mankind (plus he distills his own whisky, a great asset for a drinking buddy). The symbolism here is pretty blatant, as Reitman points out in his commentary, with him broken on the outside and her on the inside.

Things play out from there, as Mavis creates awkward tension wherever she goes because she doesn’t realize how much of an unrelenting bitch she really is. (At one point in his commentary, Reitman says it felt like he was making a horror movie because she’s such a “monster”). Mavis resents that those she left behind are happy in their small town when she has achieved so much and they should worship her. She isn’t looking for true love as much as someone to validate the sense of greatness she’s built for herself in her head.

The best conceit of a screenplay dripping with nuance is the way Mavis uses her real life as inspiration for her teenage characters, for whom such pettiness is much more appropriate and the outcome is a much happier ending.

This isn’t a happy-go-lucky comedy where everyone feels good about themselves after a viewing. Rather, it’s the best kind of character study, one that offers relatable characters and honest situations where the best outcome is hopefully to encourage a moment on honest self-reflection.

In addition to the commentary, the Blu-ray includes several deleted scenes containing additional character nuggets, a good behind-the-scenes program, a featurette deconstructing a bar scene between Mavis and Matt, and an insightful 45-minute Q&A with Reitman.

The Jason Reitman filmography logo, designed to look like an award on the cover of a children's book, which the Blu-ray emulates.


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