Mitchell Beaupre’s review:
Young Adult is the fourth film from director Jason Reitman and, for me, it fell into the same area of being something that I enjoyed while watching and found an easy viewing but forgot about immediately afterwards. Up in the Air had some great performances that let it stick around in my mind longer, but for the large part I find him to be an incredibly vanilla director who skirts around bigger themes with far too light of an approach that never delves into the meat of his subjects.
Young Adult had the potential to really go places, with a lead character who is completely lost in her life and has a very skewed perception of society, but it's too afraid to do more than run around as a far too tame attempt at "dark comedy". It's not a bad film by any means, and I didn't find anything particularly wrong with it outside of some of it's characters (particularly that of Patton Oswalt's) to be underdeveloped, but it could (and should) have been much more.
Diablo Cody is certainly maturing as a writer, with this being a stepping stone from her after the good but too acclaimed Juno and the laughably juvenile Jennifer's Body, but I've never found her immaturity to be the thing that holds her back. She's an easy match for Reitman, because they're both pretty pedestrian artists who aren't very good at rounding out their characters or probing the deeper issues that surround them. I'm saying a lot of negative things about Young Adult, but I really didn't mind it that much. I can't go so far as to say that I liked it with how many complaints I have against it, but I was never bored during my viewing or bemoaning any of it's negative aspects. It was an easy watch that went by a little too quickly.
There were some mildly humorous scenes, but I think the main positive thing that they were able to do was in it's presentation of the awkward moments of Mavis Gary's mission. In practically every scene between Charlize Theron's Gary and Patrick Wilson's Buddy Slade, her high school sweetheart and the object of her current affection, there's this air of uncomfortableness that was palpable. I found myself squirming from watching just how much of a desperate fool she made herself to be, and I think that Reitman, Cody and the cast were very effective at selling that aspect of the film.
Theron isn't an actress I usually care for and I generally find her to be far too self-aware, but I was surprised by how much I believed her in this role. She's an actress who I can see "acting" far too often, but her approach here was more natural and I certainly think it's one of her more better performances. It would have been interesting to see what she could have done had she been given more to work with.