Steve Grzesiak’s review:
I've been quite a close follower of Charlize Theron's career ever since the excellent mid-90s ensemble driven drama Two Days In The Valley, and although she is one of my favourite actresses, it struck me recently that I don't think she's put in THE really big performance in THE really great film that I am pretty sure she is capable of. She came very close indeed with Monster and has hinted at it several other times. She just hasn't quite got there yet.
This was my first Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman film and having heard a whole morass of opinions about the qualities of the former especially, I went into this film hoping that it would be the great performance in the great film that I'm sure she will be involved with one day. It came to pass, however, that it ended up being an odd experience watching Young Adult get it 50% right - THE big performance is here but in a film that really doesn't match her quality.
Or that of Patton Oswalt, for that matter. He, as the disabled former admirer from afar who belatedly befriends her alcoholic and borderline sociopathic teen novelist returning to her hometown to try and reclaim the affections of a high school sweetheart, now happily married with baby, is superb. As, of course, is she. Right off the bat, however, I struggled to really believe in the friendship they struck up and in a running time of 90 minutes where they don't actually spend all that much time together (and with one of those get-togethers ending in a major blow-up as well) it just didn't ring true to me at all.
Considering this really is a film that is completely carried by the two of them, with Patrick Wilson (as the former beau) and Elizabeth Reaser (as his wife) perhaps rightly given unshowy roles in support, it's a pretty major problem to overcome. As is the fact that it just isn't all that funny, which I think is quite an important part of any black comedy! Really, all you are left with is watching Theron unravel towards the predictable near-climax breakdown, the film's best scene, only to have that hard work undone by a baffling last 15 minutes or so.
I wasn't at all convinced that this film was ever really certain what exactly it wanted to be and as a result you are left with practically nothing but two magnificent performances that really deserved to be in a film that had something behind them. Really quite disappointing, but the Theron / Oswalt masterclass really does deserve to be seen.