Movie Review: “Young Adult”

Written by Pam-Marie Gx December 20, 2011

Anger is the correct response.

Young Adult follows the journey of mildly successful YA author Mavis Gary (played by Charlize Theron) as she looks to improve her life through rekindling an old flame. The problem? The flame known as Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) is married with a newborn child. Despite these minor obstacles, Mavis heads back to her home town to make sure that fate places him in the right arms – hers.

Young Adult starts off a bit slow, showing much of Mavis’ day-to-day and the email that sparks her epiphany. The entire beginning is a bit boring, drab and emotionless. One feels a bit of sympathy for her dog, who is treated with a great deal of indifference, but there is very little else to feel. The opening credits must get a special mention, as they are really quite cool. For someone who really loves technology, I thought seeing the inside of a tape cassette in such a way (namely, while playing), was a really interesting touch. It also helped to make a very specific point: this is a woman who is stuck in the past.

Starting with the supporting characters, there is no one who exists without some flaws. Every person in this movie is flawed in some way, and each of them are haunted by a part of their past. Perhaps the most extreme is Patton Oswalt’s character Matt Freehauf, who recognizes Mavis on her first day in town and seeks to befriend her. His story is heart-wrenching, and makes one wonder why there is a line between certain types of violence. What happened to him as a teenager is something no person should ever have to go through, and I mean both the actual event and the reactions to it. I am refusing to go into detail because I feel the character’s story is too important to be summarized by a third party in a review.

Young Adult touches on some incredibly serious problems, including depression and alcoholism, and none of these seem to be dealt with in a healthy manner. Honestly, when I first left the theatre I was full of anger at how these issues were dealt with. How could all those people just ignore her obvious cries for help? How could those people just feel sorry for her and see that she was struggling and only do things to make the problems worse? Why the fuck did they ever let her drive, when she had done nothing but drink for almost a week? The line “Are you fucking kidding?” rang through my mind at so many points, and I honestly hated the movie for the first half an hour after seeing it.

Then I stopped and actually thought about it some more. My initial reaction was anger, but why? The problem, I realized, is that I had gone through some of the same problems as Mavis. I knew the hopelessness, the inability to actually ask for help while desperately needing it, and the seeming indifference of everyone around me. I could, and would, do horrible things in the hopes that someone would call me on it and force me to get the help I needed. Eventually I did, but it had been years of spiraling out of control and treating those around me very poorly before I finally realized what I had done. I was angry at this movie because it so perfectly reflected what I, and so many others, have gone through in dealing with depression.

Again, without giving too much away, the ending isn’t exactly satisfactory. One sees the glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel, but little is really resolved, and it is clear that every character has a long way to go before being truly well again. However, one gets the feeling that the main characters aren’t the point, in the end. Instead, it shows us that we need to stop, look at the people around us, and open our eyes to the pain and suffering of our friends and family. There is also a very clear message that there are times when it is critical to stop, look at your life, and get the help you need.

At this time, when depression rates are skyrocketing and bullying is a rampant problem, this movie serves as a great wake-up call. I felt anger at the end of this movie, and that is exactly what should be felt. However, in that anger one can find hope. There is no shame in asking for help when needed. The stigma our culture has against those who are depressed or bullied needs to be ended, and Young Adult might be just the kick in the ass we need.

My Rating: 8/10

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About Pam-Marie Gx

Pam-Marie Gx

Reader, writer, student, movie-goer, drinker of rum - Pam-Marie is all these things, and more! She has a large appetite for both media and caffeine, and spends most of her time with some sort of electronic device close at hand. You can follow her on Twitter @PamMarieGx. She may even occasionally be amusing.

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