December 17, 2011 by Vinnie Leduc
Stick a fork in it. It’s done. It’s been overdone, in fact. So many comedies of the last decade feature some sort of man-child or deadbeat who simply won’t grow up. Will Ferrell and Seth Rogan perfected that type of character and may have overstayed its welcome, but theaters this year have still been disgraced by reheated slop like Arthur and The Sitter. Leave it to some award-winners to breathe new life into the tired character niche.
In a Golden Globe-nominated performance in Young Adult, by early next year will Charlize Theron be adding another Oscar next to the one she won for Monster? This time she plays another kind of monster in the reunion of writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, who respectively won and was nominated for Oscars for their collaboration in Juno.
A reverse of Ellen Page’s precocious teen in Juno (also an Oscar-nominated turn), Charlize Theron convincingly portrays a borderline neurotic woman trapped in a teenage shell of her former self. Although she’s a successful author in the big city, she yearns to relive and recapture her glory days of small-town high school, when she was a popular “prom queen bitch.” Young Adult follows her homecoming adventure as she attempts to manifest her delusional dream of stealing back her ex-boyfriend, who’s now a happily married new father.
What separates Charlize Theron and Young Adult from Cameron Diaz and Bad Teacher can be attributed to the team of writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman. Since winning an Oscar for her very first screenplay (Juno), Cody has penned scripts for Jennifer’s Body and now Young Adult, which have continued to show that she’s the queen bee of painting the adolescent playground. Reitman, nominated for Best Director Oscars for both of his last two films, helps Cody construct a very credible story and real world for Theron’s character. The final product, which spurns over-the-top ridiculousness, feels closer to Juno and less like Up In The Air, although it definitely tiptoes in the proximity of the latter’s despondence.
Like in all of Reitman’s films, Young Adult showcases a talented supporting cast that includes Patton Oswalt, Watchmen‘s Patrick Wilson, and Twilight‘s Elizabeth Reaser. Oswalt’s performance may be considered a breakthrough for the comedian, but the spotlight in this dramedy undoubtedly belongs to Charlize Theron. Young Adult gets 3.5 out of 5 stars or B or Good.