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'Young Adult': What the Critics Are Saying

Philip V. Caruso/Paramount Pictures

Charlize Theron is praised for her work as the immature former prom queen who attempts to win back the love of her ex-high school boyfriend.

Paramount’s Young Adult stars Charlize Theron as a not-so-grown-up grown up, Mavis, who writes YA novels. Soon after her divorce, she returns to her hometown on a desperate mission to rekindle a romance with her high school boyfriend Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), who is now a married man.

Mavis also runs into Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), a former high school classmate who was bullied back in the days of high school.

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The Paramount film reunites Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, who were behind the smart comedy Juno. While the main character in that film was wise beyond her teen years, their current protagonist is in desperate need of gaining a few mental years to match her age.

Critics received the film mostly positively, especially praising the work of Theron as Mavis and Oswalt as Matt. Many wrote that while the film is hard to watch with its blunt and often harsh humor, it’s well worth seeing.

“On a scene-by-scene basis, Young Adult entirely engages with its smart exchanges between characters who are well equipped with rough edges and raw nerves,” wrote The Hollywood Reporters Todd McCarthy.

FILM REVIEW: Young Adult

McCarthy went on to praise the performances of Theron and Oswalt, but added that the plot has a very short arc. “The result is an impression of vibrant character sketches rather than of full-bodied drama with depth and complexity, of two characters, specifically, who could easily warrant far more extensive treatment, so acutely and specifically drawn are they,” wrote McCarthy.

“Shorter than a bad blind date and as sour as a vinegar Popsicle, Young Adult shrouds its brilliant, brave and breathtakingly cynical heart in the superficial blandness of commercial comedy,” wrote The New York Times’ A.O. Scott.

“Theron and Oswalt turn out to be a terrific odd couple,” wrote Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times. “Not easy because Cody's screenplay calls for, and Reitman demands, that they both reveal a great deal, and a great deal of what they reveal is exceedingly ugly.”

“There is a brashness of style that both Cody and Reitman embody — almost demanding that we not only laugh at, but like the unlikable side of the human condition. That sort of bravado is fine if you've got the goods to back it up. In the cutting edginess of Theron and Oswalt, they definitely do,” added Sharkey.

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“Reitman and Cody have made a big studio prestige picture that provides a realistic look at the darkest impulses of an unlikable character,” wrote The Atlantic’s Robert Levin.

“It trades in discomfort and unease, not catharsis. That’s an achievement worthy of admiration, if you can endure it,” wrote Levin.

“By turns amusing and annoying, Young Adult could be the flip side, plus the sequel, of Juno, another film written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman,” wrote Richard Corliss of Time.

“In a thorny role, Theron is splendid; she instinctively reveals everything Mavis doesn’t know about herself and offers an intimate peek into a wayward soul,” added Corliss.