Warning - Spoiler Alert!
|Charlize Theron as Mavis Gary in "Young Adult"|
Patton Oswalt (The King of Queens) delivers an equally solid turn as a crippled nerd who uses a brutal hate crime beat-down (his high school mates mistakenly believed he was gay) decades earlier as an excuse to isolate from the world. Though his character and Charlize's never spoke in high school (despite her locker being right next to his,) they bond over booze, and he becomes the mentor/voice of reason to the resolutely self-destructive Theron. It's good chemistry. Thus when Theron returns to her hometown delusionally looking to hook up with her high school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson), despite his being happily married with a new baby, sparks, naturally, fly.
But something felt amiss. I felt like I'd recently seen this movie. I thought back on other films that were thematically similar. I recalled another film I saw not too long ago that covered similar ground. And that's when it dawned on me. Oh, yeah. Up In The Air. The director? Well, Jason Reitman. Again.
So just what do Up In The Air and Young Adult have in common?
- Both feature a quasi-successful attractive professional whose career is on the skids.
- Charlize Theron's and George Clooney's characters are both loners who skate by on charm and good looks, who treat those they view as lesser as, well, lesser, and who cope with the emptiness inside by having a string of meaningless affairs.
- Having done this for years now, both are dissatisfied with their lives and desperate for change.
- Both Clooney and Theron's characters fixate on someone whom they erroneously believe can "fix" them and give them a normal life, and they put it all at risk to try to start a relationship with that person.
- But in both cases, that person is in a committed relationship and is not interested.
- Both of them show up at the would-be love interest`s home, unwelcome, and are asked to leave.
- And most importantly (for this article anyway,) now devastated, both revert right back to their old ways again, leaving the characters driving/flying off into the sunset right smack dab where they were at the beginning of the movie, their coping mechanisms reinforced.
|The inevitable "Charlize makes a scene" scene we see coming 27 miles away.|
But in real life, people seldom arc. Obnoxious asses tend to stay obnoxious asses. Neurotic shut-ins five years later? Yep, still sitting there with the blinds drawn counting their soap bars. Of course, this is exactly why people respond so well to character arcs, because like happy endings, it's just not something we get frequently enough in reality. So along comes filmmaker Jason Reitman, who seems to be saying, "Screw character arc. It's a bullshit artifice and Homey don't play that." And you know what? Good for him. I'm glad someone is out there making successful, mainstream (indie-ish) movies that give us characters like these. Let's see movie protagonists who actually behave like real people, with all their foibles and obsessions and manias. And as writers, let's be bold and write those fascinating, dimensional and realistic fucked-up douchebags.
That said, Mr. Reitman, I think we kinda get it now, so maybe on your next film, you could kind of change up the paradigm just a wee bit.