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Young Adult (Blu-ray Review)

When I think of books meant for the young adult crowd (not counting the onset of vampire romance fiction), I tend to think of books that center around characters in their teens dealing with various types of drama, regardless of the genre, dealing with it, and experiencing a healthy level of growth because of it.  In the film Young Adult, we are given a protagonist who is the author behind a young adult book series, but does not practice the methods of a positive influence.  Charlize Theron (who is great in this role) manages to play an unlikable character who manages to become more unlikable as the film goes on.  That would generally be a bad thing, but this film actually uses that as its intention.  As a result, Young Adult manages to be a somewhat unique character study, fitted inside an incredibly dark and at times awkward comedy that does not hold back the way other films would.  Read on to learn more about this film’s Blu-ray presentation.

Film: 

Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary, a beautiful and somewhat successful author who is also lonely and somewhat of an alcoholic.  After getting a brief image of what Mavis’ life is like living in the big city, Minneapolis, we see her hatch a new plan of sorts, following the notification that her old high school boyfriend, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), has just had his first child.  Mavis packs up her things, including her purse-sized dog, Dolce, and heads back to her hometown of Mercury, Minnesota.  Her plan is to reclaim Buddy, oblivious to the problems that this idea presents.

Upon arriving, Mavis avoids going to her own home with her parents and instead gets a hotel room.  She immediately tries to make a rendezvous with Buddy, only to schedule a date for the next day.  In the meantime, she goes to one of the old bars in town and strikes up a friendship with Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), a former classmate who was crippled in high school and has since remained a resident of Mercury.  Matt is the only one who learns of Mavis’ plan, but once Mavis begins to reconnect with Buddy and interact with his wife, Beth (Elizabeth Reaser), things move down a dark and awkwardly comedic hill.

I have been a big fan of director Jason Reitman, who previously made Thank You for Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air.  Each of those are films that I love to revisit, so in my mind, it seemed apparent that Young Adult was going to have to work hard to be able to match up.  While I would say that Young Adult is a good film overall and works well in not compromising its characters for the sake of a touching, Hollywood ending, I would also put it at the bottom of list, when ranking Reitman’s films.  That is almost a way of complimenting the film, as this reaction of mine is mainly due to its lack of a certain charm that the other films have had.  Young Adult does not feature a lead I would really want to continue to hang out with, regardless of how strong Theron’s performance is.  This movie is basically the opposite of Bad Teacher, not copping out on its lead character, going the route of a sitcom-style plot and instead embracing her level of narcissism and the overall cynical tone that is resolved in a fairly haphazard sense.

The film was scripted by Diablo Cody, who previously won an Oscar for Juno.  Hipster dialogue be damned, that’s a well written film, but the stylized nature of that screenplay is very much dialed down in favor of a much more restrained type of story.  The humor is very dark, very dry, and embraces the Ricky Gervais-style of making things as cringe worthy as possible.  The central story is essentially smaller in scope, focusing on the train wreck occurring, as Mavis tries to shoehorn herself back into the life of her old boyfriend.  The best decision was to add the character of Matt, played by Patton Oswalt, who serves as an appropriate outlet for Mavis, while also being able to voice discerning reasoning as to why her objectives are so abhorrent.  Given the tragic nature of Matt’s back story (and other tragic revelations), it is all these additional details that really add to the film overall.

I have noted a few times that Theron is great in another role that requires her to really ugly herself up.  Not Monster-style ugly, but ugly in the sense that she is stripped of actor pride for the sake of portraying a mean, narcissistic, and very vulnerable persona.  The way Mavis must glamour herself up before going out, hiding the sad, lonely, distraught woman underneath says plenty.  More revealing scenes, in more ways than one, arrive later in the film as well, further indicating the strength of this performance.  It is a well crafted performance that is never overplayed and rightly establishes all the necessary qualities to make it work, regardless of how much respect we end up having for the character.

Additionally, there are a few notable supporting roles that work as well.  Oswalt, who I have seen do great work in a smaller film, Big Fan, gets another chance to shine here, establishing pathos for his character as well as easily highlighting his own idiosyncrasies.  Patrick Wilson deserves a good amount of credit for playing not really a dolt, but a man who acts oblivious to Mavis, in hopes of not having to relive whatever it was that pushed them apart in the past.  Keeping it together in the midst of heavy come-ons from an ex, while the wife and newborn factor in was a good enough challenge for Wilson to have.  I also enjoyed Reaser as Buddy’s wife quite a bit.  She does not have a prominent role, but there was a lot to take away from her expressions in the wake of Mavis’ presence.

In the past I would say that Reitman, as a director, has done a good job at applying a clever visual style to his films, sometimes more overtly than others.  In this film, much like the script and performances, his visual touches seem dialed back for the film.  It is not necessarily a bad thing, but it seemed more apparent that this is a film made based on desire to re-collaborate with Cody again, as opposed to really adding a personal stamp to the film.  Still, there is a lot to admire in the way the film comes together.  It flows fairly well, up until the third act, which is a bit rushed, but definitely does not outstay its welcome.  There are also some good soundtrack choices, which has been another good staple of Reitman’s films.  The tracks heard in this film are quite fitting both in tone and in how they are rooted to the times from the past that Mavis is revisiting in her mind.

I wanted to like this film more, but in a way that is similar to The Descendents, I found the film to be good enough for a watch, but not one that I need to really revisit as often as the director’s other work.  The writing and acting in this film is very good.  I have especially high regards for Theron and Oswalt, who both manage to reveal enough about themselves and show how vulnerable they are when you get right down to it, but without having any of that drama register as unreal.  I was also pleased that Cody’s script did not feel like another version of Juno, but instead seemed like a good sign that there are many shades of what her writing has to offer.  It is a fine character study about a person I don’t really want to root for and would just rather see grow up.

 

Video: 

I don’t want to say that this film is plain, but it is not one that relies on stellar showy visuals to have it get by.  Because of this, while not one that blew me away, I was impressed with seeing the amount of detail I was able to get from this film’s 1080p transfer onto Blu-ray.  The film is set in the mid-west and during what is basically an overcast-type setting.  Colors are warm in regards to backgrounds and character clothing and the textures look fine.  Given that the character of Mavis is so involved with doing herself up with makeup, getting up close looks at her face, as she applies her various forms of beauty supplies is neat to see with such clarity.  It is a solid transfer for a film that one wouldn’t expect to be blown away by from, visually, unless they are solely hooked on Theron’s natural beauty.

Audio: 

Again, not the flashiest film in this regard either.  Young Adult is very dialogue driven throughout, with various blasts from the soundtrack, which the DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack is suited well to the disc to handle.  The mixing done to best reflect all of the dialogue, various background noises, and various beats from the soundtrack all feels well handled enough.  There is a lot of quiet in this film as well.  The opening is literally about 8 minutes with almost no dialogue from the characters, so hearing the various effects and ambient noise going on around the screen payoff, due to the solid enough audio track presented.  Again, not a stunner, but certainly nothing to scoff at.

Extras: 

Perhaps not bursting with extra features, it is all about quality in the supplement section, which I think does a good job at covering the film and its production process.  Plus, all the extras are in HD, which I am always happy to see.

Features Include:

Filmmaker’s Commentary – Director Jason Reitman, Director of Photography Eric Steelberg, and First Assistant Director/Associate Producer Jason A. Blumenfeld all participate in a pretty strong commentary that is insightful, informative, and full of little tidbits.  I would have liked Diablo Cody’s participation as well, but this is a strong track that is certainly worth a listen for fans of the film.

Misery Loves Company:  The Making of Young Adult – More than the standard EPK, as this is quite lengthy and lets a lot of the cast and crew participate in interviews going over the origins and production of the film.

The Awful Truth: Deconstructing a Scene – Diablo Cody goes over what went into her process of coming up with the story, which is followed by seeing how a scene comes together in the editing process.  Short, but interesting.

Deleted Scenes – Clear to see why they were cut, but kinda fun.

Q&A Featuring Janet Maslin & Jason Reitman at the Jacob Burns Film Center – At 45 minutes, this is a very lengthy Q&A that goes over a lot of aspects of the film.

Ultraviolet Copy – Yep, one of those…

Summary: 

I will say that Young Adult did work for me more on Blu-ray, knowing what I was getting into and being able to appreciate it more for the performances I already knew I admired.  It is a strong film for all the actors involved, namely Theron and Oswalt (unfortunate indeed that neither were Oscar nominated).  Jason Reitman took a turn of sorts with this film, but he made it work, as did Diablo Cody, who has grown as a screenwriter (and probably for the better as far as the Juno haters are concerned).  Fortunately, the Blu-ray is quite solid as well.  It looks and sounds great and is also stocked with some quality extras.  Since this film did not exactly set the box office on fire, I hope the majority of newbies to this film will appreciate such an offbeat drama, mainly due to the strength of the performances.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

2 Responses to “Young Adult (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Jordan Grout

    I noticed that on the Hugo and Tintin Blu-ray, they offer both the itunes digital copy AND the Ultraviolet Copy. Is it the same for Young Adult? It’s a Paramount film, if I’m not mistaken.

    Great review!

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    Thanks and unfortunately no, only the UV copy