Young Adult ★★★★

What an uncomfortable movie to sit through. There are so many scenes full of cringe-inducing behaviors. That said, I think it’s a good movie. It’s really rare that you see an American movie that allows an a-list actress to drive an entire movie by the sheer power of her performance alone. Charlize Theron embodies this complicated narcissist of a character with grace and energy. The restraint and the specificity of her role. It feels like something out a French drama or a Danish black comedy. The way Theron can make such simple facial gestures and the mere utterance of words like ‘thank you’ and ‘woody’ so hilarious is incredible.

The rest of the cast around Charlize Theron is equally talented. If Reddit were a person, that person would probably be Patton Oswalt. Though I do think he’s a very talented comedian and actor, sometimes his brand can be a little too much for me. But his presence in this film as a Patton Oswalt style nerd brings a beautiful layer of contrast to Theron’s depressed popular girl. It’s a really poignant performance.

The dialogue is effective and revealing. When I saw Diablo Cody was the writer on this film, I was worried it would be full of Juno-style one-liners. Fortunately it is not. Young Adult is full of clever writing techniques. The use of her writing of the Young Adult novel as a narrative device was a very inspired choice. 

Reitman’s directing style is simple and unobtrusive. He loves his actors more than anything else, and everything else in the film is scaled back, from the camera to the set, in service to them. I think it’s really impressive. He makes this style of filmmaking look easy (in comparison to a Star Wars movie or something), when it’s actually extremely complicated in its own way and requires a deep understanding of human behavior. Reitman is also very good at evoking the feeling of this town: this suffocating and benign little mall suburb. The feeling of cold and frustration is well conveyed.

Overall I was very impressed by the film and how small and real and funny it is.

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