'Young Adult' is a curious film experience, because the movie begs you to hate the main character. Mavis (Charlize Theron) is not only unlikable, but loathsome. In high school she was the most popular girl in school. She was bitchy to those beneath here and won Prom Queen every single year. She was, and still is, gorgeous, but life has taken its toll. Living hard in high school has caught up with Mavis and now she slinks around her condo chugging diet coke and Maker's Mark.
Mavis is the author of a young adult book series. It's fitting that she writes about teenagers in high school, because she's never actually left. High school was the pinnacle of Mavis' life and now she tries desperately to relive it through her characters.
One day she receives an email from her old high school boyfriend Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) which invites her to come back to their hometown of Mercury, Minnesota to see their newborn baby. Because Mavis has never left her high school state of mind she finds nothing wrong in trying to go back home to win her high school boyfriend back. Even though he's happily married and just had his first kid, Mavis is determined to win him over. It's a thought process that can only exist in the head of a sociopath, which Mavis is. She's never had a point in her life where a life-affirming epiphany has taken place. Never a time where she felt truly happy with the way her life turned out. She's a miserable human being, but deep inside her twisted mind she thinks that she's still in high school and that she still has the power of popularity. The power to bend people to her will. It's gone.
Everyone around Mavis has grown up and dealt with their issues. She runs into an old acquaintance Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt) who used to have a locker right next to her. She clings to Matt because he's the only one that will really acknowledge that she's there. It's been a decade or two since high school, but Matt is finally talking to the pretty, popular girl. Only now she's sporting bags under her eyes and full on alcoholism.
This is the type of character Oswalt is built for. If you've ever seen him in 'The United States of Tara' you know that he's perfect at playing the downcast, geeky type of guy. The guy who can't help but get down on himself because he's fat, nerdy, and kind of a slob. Here Matt is the character we relate to. The humanistic character that provides much needed balance to Mavis' unrelenting narcissism. It's a balancing act that works perfectly throughout the film.
Director Jason Reitman ('Up in the Air') has reteamed with writer Diablo Cody ('Juno') and the two have, together, created one of the most loathsome, but interesting characters in recent memory. There's nothing to like about Mavis, but that's the point. Even the book that she's writing is completely self-centered. A way for her to vindicate the evil, awful things she does to people. We get a voiceover here and there as Mavis writes the last book in her once-popular series. The book is about a girl named Kendall who is popular and hated by everyone. Sound familiar? We soon realize that this is probably the only thing keeping Mavis from downing a bottle of pills with her copious amounts of alcohol.
There are no life-affirming changes that happen to Mavis. I want to get that right out of the way. She's an irredeemable bitch. We're here to simply observe the dark and twisted life of someone who never grew up. Someone who never realized that there's more to life than being popular and the effects that could have on someone when they near 40 years-old. The story of Mavis is a cautionary tale for young, popular ladies everywhere. Be nice to people or you could wind up a broken-down 40 year-old drunk who doesn't get it.
That's the key here. Mavis doesn't get it and she quite possibly never will. She's sheltered herself in her own delusional world where she's right and everyone else is wrong. Some people will never learn. Mavis is one of those people.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Young Adult' is a Paramount release. It comes in a standard, eco-friendly Blu-ray keepcase. I was happy that the cover art they used was the same movie poster art that made the poster look like a worn-out library book. The disc is a 50GB Blu-ray Disc. The release also comes with your own UltraViolet Digital Copy. There's a code provided and instructions on how to stream your movie from the Cloud.
The 1080p video presentation of 'Young Adult' is a nearly stunning. There aren't any large set pieces or CG-created images to dazzle the eyes, but the consistent crystal clarity afforded this release should count for something.
The first thing I noticed about the detail-oriented presentation is that it's easy to see the great lengths that Mavis goes to in order to make herself look pretty. Even though she's already good-looking she plasters on the make-up which is enhanced with a high definition viewing. This is the perfect way to perceive her character. We've all been around women who wear way too much make-up. It's off-putting, and the video presentation does a great job at conveying just how off-putting it can be.
Blacks are steadily brilliant throughout the entire film. I didn't notice any crushing. Instead the shadows are well-delineated adding depth to the picture. Textures are extremely life-like, from the shiny plastic sheen of Matt's action figures to the pockmarked bald patch on Mavis' head where she unconsciously pulls out strands of hair. It's great that this presentation is so detailed, because it's imperative to Mavis' character that we see every flaw whether it be glaring or subtle.
I found the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix to be a bit wanting in the dialogue department. Since this movie is all dialogue I felt that the soft focus on it made for a slightly tough listening environment. I had to turn the movie's overall volume up quite a bit more than average. Before I did that I found myself straining to hear many of the words coming out of Mavis' mouth, since she mutters and mumbles just about every line she has.
The musical soundtrack, however, is given ample room to breathe. It fills each channel nicely, especially during the opening credits where Mavis listens to the same song over and over.
The film is really light on ambient sound, even at crowded parties. So there's little in the way of surround sound for much of the movie. This is an intimate film which usually consists of two or three people talking to each other. While that is the case I did find that the dialogue was a little too low for my liking, making it hard to hear without the volume turned up.
This movie isn't for everyone. When we got done watching it my wife simply said, "I didn't like that movie." I can see why. The main character is an irredeemable mess. Although, I think I saw the movie more from Matt's point of view. As a casual observer looking in on a shattered life that most likely will never find solace. Just when you think that something will break through Mavis' demented head it doesn't. There's something to be said for the movie not kowtowing to the normal life-changing clichés that would assuredly happen in other films. While it's not for everyone, this one is still recommended, especially for those of you that like Reitman and Cody's work.