Young Adult ★½

With this film’s pedigree, you’d think we’d be in for something special. Not only does this film star Charlize Theron, but it’s directed by Jason Reitman and the script is by Juno writer Diablo Cody. Put it all together and… you’ve got a real stinker! Wow!

Cody writes Theron a terrible part to play. A vapid girl who used to be something back in high school. Of course she couldn’t wait to leave small town USA, and somehow made it in the big city (well, Minneapolis, but we’re splitting hairs) as a ghostwriter of teen fiction. When we meet her we see by the state of her surroundings (her apartment is a mess) that vapid’s life is coming apart at the seams. She can’t seem to write the next book and she is living a totally empty life.

Out of the blue she receives a baby announcement from her old high school flame, so she decides to return to Podunkville and hook up with said flame. Honestly! That’s the plot – never mind that flame is married and has just been blessed with a child. Never mind that she feels herself socially above the minions of Podunk – she somehow sees this opportunity to change her life – convincing herself that not only is she suddenly still in love with this guy (when he’s really just a conduit to her glory days in high school – how psychology 101!) – but she also just “knows” that once he sees her, the old magic will return.

Now, if you were a studio head and this was pitched to you, regardless of the author’s pedigree, would you greenlight this drivel? Yeah, didn’t think so.

Making matters worse, vapid girl stays vapid – she doesn’t have any growth, doesn’t learn anything about herself or others for that matter – the story just plays out from start to finish with Theron embracing the role, such as it is. Why we should care about this quite frankly very ugly person, is beyond comprehension.

Further, the script isn’t written all that well. The big revelation that happens towards the end is a forced and anemic effort, and, as if the forced relationship between Theron and flame isn’t enough, there’s a second relationship thrown in so that the film can attempt to show some conscience. Again, scenes come off as either too convenient, or too obvious and preachy, although I will say that Patton Owsalt as Theron’s drinking buddy and conscience, is about the only real and genuine thing about this entire enterprise.

As a final blow to reality, I started wondering (never a good thing mid film) how an alcoholic, fast food junky can pretend to be a 37 year old Charlize Theron? In any real world, that just ain’t happenin’.

paul liked this review