Thursday, January 12, 2012

What I Saw: Young Adult

What I Saw:   Young Adult

When Peter Pan refused to grow up, he got to go on flying adventures, fight pirates, and be the leader of the lost boys. Mavis Gary, on the other hand, isn’t having nearly as much fun. The difference lies simultaneously in our culture’s gendered expectations of success, our idealized attachment to childhood and our societal rejection of the the formative teenage years.

Charlize Theron plays the title character Mavis Gary, who is the author of a popular series of young adult novels. Had she chosen to write books for a slightly younger demographic, she would be adored as a children’s author. Had she chosen to write books for a slightly older demographic, she might have her work turned into a television series like Sex And The City. Adolescence, however, is viewed as merely a transitional phase by our society, something that one is expected to grow out of rather than emulate. Unlike Peter Pan, no one finds it cute when Mavis invites her Wendy (played by Patrick Wilson) to return to the Neverland ideals of young love and fight the onslaught of adult responsibility, confident that they can “beat this thing together.”

The prevalence of heterosexist gender roles also plays into this. Although she is a former prom queen, Mavis is divorced and has no children. Her sidekick (played by Patton Oswalt) is falsely accused of being gay and undergoes a painful hate crime as a result. Those who are still following the Peter Pan analogy will recall that in that series Peter Pan’s sidekick (the fairy Tinkerbell) was saved by the magic of the cheering crowds, but here the responsible masses have all embraced maturity, and their clapping hands have been replaced with pity.

There are many humorous moments in the script, but the real power of the film comes from the commitment that Theron and Oswalt make to their characters. Both actors embrace the fragility of their characters, as well as the incredible steps that they (and particularly Theron) go to in presenting themselves to the public. The film leaves us wondering whether Mavis will ever change her ways, but it makes it painfully clear that the rest of us will not be changing ours.

Oscar Chances:

Lead Actress: Charlize Theron (currently ranked 6, but could easily break into the top 5)
Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody (currently ranked 7)
Supporting Actor: Patton Oswalt (currently ranked 9)
Best Director: Jason Reitman (currently ranked 21)
Best Picture (currently ranked 30)
Film Editing: Dana Glauberman (currently ranked 39)

As always, check the Tracker Pages in the upper right hand corner of this blog for the most updated predictions in all categories!

My Lamb Score: 4 out of 5 Lambs
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Read more of my reviews HERE.


  1. Looking forward to seeing this for Charlize Theron's performance! This was shot in my home state after all :D

  2. @Castor, Seems unfair that they didn't let you see it first then. Maybe you can do one of those tour posts that you do for this movie!

  3. Theron gives a terrific performance. She elevates the movie by demonstrating her versatility. She almost makes you feel sympathetic towards this blonde, beautiful and sharp-witted anti-heroine. Oswalt deserves consideration for supporting actor as well. Great review.

  4. Thanks Dan! The two performances really are what make this film.

  5. It would be great to see Theron sneak in, but this is a heavy year for Actresses. Streep, Close, Davis, Williams, Mara, etc.

  6. @Colin, You're right. It's a really tight race this year. I'm thinking that Theron just misses the cut, mostly due to the nature of the film more than her performance itself. (It's not a biopic, or a period piece).

  7. Like Castor, I'm interested in seeing this as it was shot in our home state, but only as a rental. Despite the good performances, the subject matter doesn't seem too appealing. My friends said it's really dark and actually kind of dismal, even one of 'em who's a huge fan of Diablo Cody didn't really like it.

  8. @Ruth, This is one that is fine to save for a rental. There's not any cinematography or visual effects that you're going to miss here, and the acting and story will come through just fine in that other format.