The Trouble with Quibbles: Young Adult

Young Adult is the second collaboration between director Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody. And though Young Adult is somewhat similar to Juno in its quirkiness, it is a much different film. Darker. Richer. Both Cody and Reitman’s work has matured in the time since Juno.

Young Adult follows Mavis (Charlize Theron), an egocentric writer who’s achieved mild success ghost-writing a popular young adult series. Upon learning that her former high school flame, Buddy (Patrick Wilson), is happily married and has recently become a father, Mavis decides to win him back and rescue him from his boring small-town life. Once she returns home she forms an unlikely bond with once-and-future-geek Matt (Patton Oswalt), who advises her against pursuing her former beau. But Mavis knows best, she and Buddy belong together.

Bryan: I say a good place to start is how we feel about Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody. What do you make of their previous work?

Adam: That’s a whole other quibble.

Bryan: Well, just a quick overview.

Adam: I thought Juno was great, on both their parts. I don’t like Thank You For Smoking at all. I really liked Up in the Air. And I didn’t hate Jennifer’s Body, but I was disappointed, though you could blame that on Karyn Kusama.

Bryan: Okay, I think we’re on about the same page then. Juno was really good, the awards were a bit much but the backlash is worse. Thank You for Smoking was missing something, cause the premise was cool. Up in the Air made my top ten that year. And I didn’t bother with Jennifer’s Body or United States of Tara.

Adam: So, that outta the way… I loved Young Adult.

Bryan: And I did not. Should you start with why or me?

Adam: Well, the two main reasons I love this movie are Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt. I think they’re both great. They’re both hilarious. And they play off each other very well. For me, they’re the foundation of the film.

Bryan: I can agree with that. I was constantly wanting more Oswalt.

Adam: That’s really my only “problem” with the movie, too. The second time round, I was just eager for him to show up… so eager, that I forgot how quickly he does.

Bryan: I liked the movie. But like you say, those two are the core of the movie. So, I think a better movie could have been made focusing on something else other than Mavis’ obsession with Buddy. I liked the two characters but I didn’t like the plot.

Adam: But the plot is so very much about who this character is; Mavis is this fatalistically obsessed Ahab. Buddy is her white whale. And she wants his Moby Dick.

Bryan: I know why we get this plot. I just wasn’t that interested in it for 90-minutes. I wanted more of her in the city. The pre-credit stuff is great and gives you a nice taste of who she is. And I wanted more OSWALT, DAMMIT! I feel like the creators did too, like this should have been his movie and what happens to him when this high school hottie comes back to town.

Adam: I completely disagree. That’s a different movie. I’d see that movie, but that’s not what this movie needed.

Bryan: I think you still include the Buddy stuff, just don’t make it the focus. It happens but so does this and so does that. I also wanted more about her being an author. How did that happen?

Adam: That’s not what the movie is about! This isn’t a slice of life movie, it’s about Mavis’ self-centered obsession. Everything else is a sidenote.

Bryan: I know and it should stay that way, but with a different plot. It grows tiresome.


Bryan: Here she is pining after Buddy. And here she is again doing the same. Repeat until it boils over and then end the movie. And tease us with awesome scenes with Oswalt.

Adam: Do you not understand obsession… her all-consuming, single-minded pursuit? That premise is clearly stated, but apparently you’d rather see There’s Something About Mavis…

Bryan: Maybe I DO! What’s it to you?!!

Adam: I don’t even know what just happened? When it comes to psychological disorders, it seems like you have this dismissive stopgap. Depression – oh, just suck it up. Obsession – move on already.

Bryan: I think it’s all in the presentation. Here I don’t think it is interesting enough for the full runtime. I liked how messed up they made her. Pulling out hair, drinking all the time, etc. Really, all I’m asking for is like 2-3 more scenes with Theron and Oswalt together. I get obsession. I’m not saying for her to move on, just have more things happening in the story.

Adam: That’s contrary to the whole point of the story. In a story about obsession, you concentrate on the obsession.

Bryan: Sure, but that doesn’t mean we need so many scenes of her and Buddy. Just scenes of her talking about him to other people.

Adam: She’s only got like three scenes with Buddy.

Bryan: You shut your mouth! And the Buddy scene with Oswalt was the best one.

Adam: And you just described the movie. She talks with Buddy maybe three times, and spends the rest of the time talking to other people about it.

Bryan: Maybe I just really wanted more Oswalt scenes. I’m obsessed!

Adam: Exactly!

Bryan: I also didn’t care for the ending. Not that she doesn’t learn a lesson or anything, just the way in which she doesn’t. The sister character randomly sitting her down. It was awkward. I’m not so sure it was the best way to handle it. Plus, Oswalt wasn’t in the scene.

Adam: Well, at least we agree that the film could have benefited from more Oswalt. What about Theron?

Bryan: She’s really good. I kind of wanted her to be crazier. Not the whole time, but I wanted her to really lose her shit at the end. Her reaction was a little too predictable. I mean *SPOILER-Y* who she sleeps with.

Adam: Well, if you heard Oswalt talk about the film, then you knew that was coming. I liked the progression to that moment, though.

Bryan: I hadn’t, but it was a little too obvious. I would have preferred they teased it but it didn’t happen.

Adam: I don’t think it was supposed to be a surprise. You know she’s going to use him up eventually.

Bryan: I know, but use him up a different way. Just in general, there were lots of places and scenes I wanted this story to go, and it never really went there. Like tease this thing is going to happen but then not do it. There weren’t a ton of curveballs to the story.

Adam: So, all in all, you just wanted Young Adult to be a different movie entirely… that’s what I’m getting.

Bryan: No, no. These are minor things. I enjoyed watching it, but here and there I was like “oh, not that.” I kind of wanted Buddy to be a dick. Wouldn’t that be the kind of guy she was with? Maybe tease like he was one of the jocks that beat up Oswalt, but then we find out no, he’s just a regular jerk.

Adam: He is a dick. It’s just subtle. He’s not an uber-dick, just a mild-mannered dick.

Bryan: Example?

Adam: Having the same “special song” for multiple girlfriends. Cavorting with Mavis in the first place when she’s clearly got some ulterior motives, kissing her, still assuming Matt (Oswalt) is gay. At the same time, though, I don’t think it’s entirely Buddy’s fault. I think Mavis brings that out of him.

Bryan: Hmmm… Interesting… you are making good points sir. Look, I liked this movie. I really liked the two main performances. It was funny and a little twisted. I think I just wanted more of what was so good about it. I would watch it again, but not right away. Grade: B

Adam: Well, I’m glad we agree about Oswalt and Theron giving great performances. Their performances alone are reason enough to see this movie. I love the film exactly as it is, even though it could benefit from some more scenes with Oswalt. Grade: A

Bryan: I should point out that neither of them would make my top 5 nominations for the year, as good as they are, I liked some others better, but that’s for another post.


One response to “The Trouble with Quibbles: Young Adult

  1. Great conversation guys and I agree with all your criticisms, especially the lack of Oswalt. Someone should really cast him in his own movie about obsession.

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