The film's title of "Young Adult" is actually one of the only decent puns related with this movie: Charlize Theron plays Mavis, an author of a young adult fiction series, but she's also "young" at heart. Not in the youthful, carefree way of gentlefolk; no, Mavis is a sixteen-year-old brat stuck inside a thirty-something's body. In other words, she's incredibly immature.
"Directed by Jason Reitman" is something I'm generally happy to hear, but "written by Diablo Cody" is usually not. Young Adult is both. And as a result of the sometimes shotty, irritating script, Young Adult runs out of steam halfway through. The initial premise — Mavis returns to her hometown, attempting to win back her now-married high school flame — becomes tired and groan-worthy at every forced punchline, an art Cody seems to have perfected to a science. This is seriously irksome humour.
Cody's writing, for all its witticisms and "irreverence," bothers me immensely. I'm not entirely sure why, but perhaps its the feeling of irony being shoved down my throat. Or maybe its the not-so-subtle attempts at being cute. Whatever it is, Juno worked a little better, as the high school setting fit the dialogue much more appropriately. Mavis has a few one-liners that are smirk-inducing, but it never quite goes beyond that. I know some people who hate Cody's writing much more than I do, and they should stay as far away from Young Adult as possible. The film is utterly insufferable at times.
I should mention Patton Oswalt's character Matt, who is shoehorned into the script and exists as basically Mavis's conscience. He's an actual character, of course, with real flesh and blood, but the film almost frames him as imaginary. The film could extract only a handful of lines, and Matt would cease to be real. He would be a manifestation of Mavis's mind, and that's basically how his character serves the plot — Mavis's morality mind check. These characters are shells on a Stephanie Meyer level.
|"Don't you hit on a married man, Mavis!"|
The lack of any real sense of grounding leaves the film really flimsy. We don't give a damn about any of these characters, and there isn't much drive to see them succeed. There's no clear way to win in the situation of trying to break up a marriage to reignite lost passions.
The other major problem with this film is the fact that we've literally seen this movie before. That is, of course, if you've seen this summer's Bad Teacher, where Cameron Diaz tried desperately to hit on Justin Timberlake, a man already taken, but eventually settles for the dumbo nice guy who listens to her. Sound familiar? That's because it is: the two films feature identical levels of the following: fake breasts, alcoholism, bleached hair, cynical attitudes, desperate women, and huge (re: obnoxiously huge) sunglasses. I'd almost call it plagiarism, but I have no idea when these scripts were written.
Young Adult, for all its similarities, is not Bad Teacher 2. In fact, to call Young Adult as a sequel to Bad Teacher would be a disservice to that film, as schlocky as it was. Why? Because the script isn't funny; nor is it witty. In a perfect world, Charlize Theron would have replaced Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher, because as decent as Diaz was in that film, Theron would have nailed it. Take the best elements of both films and combine them into Young Teacher. Hey, that works.
To Young Adult's credit, Theron's Mavis is better than Diaz's Elizabeth Halsey, but that's expected. Theron is great in whatever she does, but her talent can only breathe so much into a frustratingly silly script. They're the same character attempting the same thing, and Young Adult's presumable intention of trying to be more "heart-felt" or "indie" comes across as smug and deliberate emotion bait. Rest assured, these two films are nearly carbon copies — a problem that lies with the latter film rather than the former. Go watch Bad Teacher and have a better, smarter, funnier time.