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Theatrical Release Date: 12/16/2011
Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser, Collette Wolfe
Rated: R for language and some sexual content.
Runtime: 1 hour, 34 minutes


Trailer:

I’m just so pretty.

Yet another award hopeful has come to the multiplex, in the form of director Jason Reitman’s “Young Adult”. ‘Hopeful’ being the key word.

Starring Charlize Theron as a ghostwriter for a popular Young Adult book series in the middle of a less-than-mid-life crisis, the story centers on her return to a small Minnesota town, in the hopes that rekindling a lost love (Patrick Wilson) will put things back on track. As her quest begins, she begins an unlikely friendship with a former classmate (Patton Oswalt) – the kind of relationship only found in movies – and she drinks herself towards whatever fate might befall such a wayward person.

That’s a very sloppy plot description but the bottom line is that it’s a very casually assembled film. While some of the blame lands firmly in the lap of Reitman, for creating a lackluster opening sequence and continuing with a rather sluggish pace that makes the 94 minute runtime feel much longer, most of the problems inherent in the final result stem from Diablo Cody’s script.

She and Reitman made a name for themselves with “Juno“, utilizing Cody’s penchant for jaded, quirky and overtly hipster language. That works fine in the mouths of teenagers running in those associated social circles. Moving up to adults twice their age, Cody left behind the incessant turns of phrases but failed to inject very much energy into the scenes – relying too heavily on the actors to make each scene work. Perhaps she just fell in love with the idea of who the character was and shoehorned this story around it, reveling in the ability to write scenes where the outward beauty of the main character only elevates the hypocrisy of the ugliness within. Even if that were so, it’s giving too much credit to such a lifeless plot progression.

On the positive side, Theron does fine, portraying a big fish in a little town who finds the city inhabited by too many other big fish to feel special. And the casting department got it right in selecting Oswalt, who keeps the film from completely devolving into a sour mess of “woe is me”s. His comedic instincts and timing elevate the completely transparent reason for the character’s existence (and an Afternoon Special back story) into nearly the only thing interesting on-screen. Theron is busy feeling sorry for herself and looking to fix things by regressing and Wilson is typecast as another unexplainably bland sex symbol. If it weren’t for Oswalt, theaters might have had to hand out pillows to make patrons more comfortable while napping.

It’s no shock that the powers that be held “Young Adult” for a prime release spot given the filmmakers’ pedigrees and Theron’s inclusion. However, Reitman will just have to come back another year with a better effort because this one shouldn’t find its way to the top of many Best Of lists. A 2.5 out of 5, you’re better off re-watching one of his past films and putting the saved money towards that ridiculous toy your kid won’t shut up about this holiday season.

2.5 out of 5