Young Adult review: Satire that is too mean to be funny

Cold and cruel, like a child picking wings off a fly: Young Adult is creepy and unpleasant to watch

Young Adult (15)

Verdict: Satire that's too mean to be funny

Every successful film-maker has one flop in him, and Young Adult is Jason Reitman’s.

The talented director of Thank You For
Smoking, Juno and Up In The Air comes unstuck with this black comedy
about a hack writer of young adult fiction (Charlize Theron) revisiting
her hometown in order to break up the marriage of her high school beau
(Patrick Wilson).

To achieve this, she involves the
reluctant help of a disabled schlub (Patton Oswalt) who has worshipped
her from afar and now gets the chance to observe her feet of clay close
up.

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Wonderfully performed... but Charlize Theron's heroine is a cold-hearted, scheming sociopath with an unwarranted superiority complex

Wonderfully performed… but Charlize Theron's heroine is a cold-hearted, scheming sociopath with an unwarranted superiority complex

Both characters are wonderfully
performed by Theron and Oswalt, but you wonder why they are bothering.
The only joke, obvious from the opening frames, is that our heroine is a
cold-hearted, scheming sociopath with an unwarranted superiority
complex.

Juno writer Diablo Cody then organises the material to be as cruel and mean-spirited as possible towards her anti-heroine.

The effect isn’t funny at all. Cody strives to be bracingly honest, but just comes across as smart-alecky.

For 99 per cent of the movie, she
assures us small-town people are good folk with grounded ethics; then
she turns round — in a preposterous volte-face — and shows one of these
people pleading with our heroine to take her away to the city, away from
unattractive losers and people with ‘family values’.

The scene comes out of nowhere and
exemplifies the film’s central problem. It thinks it’s dark and edgy
with a heart of gold, but really has an unconscious attitude of
superiority towards all the characters.

It’s the opposite of warm and
Capraesque. It’s cold and cruel, like a child picking wings off flies —
and, unlike Carnage, creepy and unpleasant to watch.