Did not expect to be watching such a depressing and raw film. Something about the way the lead character of the film is written (and performed by a fearless Charlize Theron) throughout moments of the film – the awareness of her use of analogies as a writer, for example – makes her ring as a very possible autobiographical cipher for screenwriter Diablo Cody. Whether this is true or not doesn’t change the fact that Young Adult is a painfully truthful and intelligently cynical drama that really pierces the day-to-day life and thought processes of a woman falling into a deep spiral of depression.
Charlize Theron’s performance is, in a word, electrifying. You can say her Oscar-winning role in Monster was a tour-de-force and her career-best, but no matter how strong and effective she was there – it has nothing on what she manages to do here. Without prosthetics and without a true person to really identify off of (except, possibly, Cody) – Theron has to craft this character with as much venom as she possibly can. Creating a mean-spirited, hyper-bitch of bitchdom and somehow still make her feel thoroughly sympathetic and real in the end. Theron doesn’t create some out-of-this-world villain of one-dimensional cruelness; she’s a human being whose brain is swimming in circles of approaching self-destruction. It’s absolutely hurtful to watch her.
Young Adult seems like it’d be predictable where it would head, but it isn’t – and that’s a refreshing resolution (as much as it’s ultimately cold and saddening)… but where the film ends up is simply, to put it bluntly, authentic. Young Adult is not only one of the very best films of the year, it has Theron giving one of the very best leading actress performances I’ve recently had the pleasure of seeing.
You’re absolutely right, Douglas. Theron’s performance is an underrated tour de force. I, too, was surprised to find myself admiring this film. Patton Oswald’s Matt, the deeply scarred victim of a misplaced hate crime, is also a brilliant bit of casting.