“Young Adult is like Black Swan for writers,” my housemate Eddie told me when I expressed interest in the film. And, after seeing it, I have to agree.
Black Swan was rife with metaphors, and so is Young Adult. Take, for example, the fact that emotionally stunted, alcoholic woman-child Mavis Gary says to her newly acquired drinking buddy Matt, who was beaten to a bloody pulp for being gay (he’s actually not, as an awkward, drunken encounter between he and Mavis will attest) when they were in high school together, that she wishes he would stop leaning on his crutch. Matt was rendered a cripple in the attack, so he kinda has to lean on his crutch, but she means it as a metaphor for his feeling sorry for himself and refusing to live his life. Matt congratulates her on her way with words and asks her if she’s used that line in her Waverly Prep novels.
Mavis is one to talk, though. The movie opens with her chugging Diet Coke, gorging on ice cream, napping during the day in her dingy apartment whilst watching Kendra and the Kardashians, and she continues like this throughout the rest of the movie, after deciding to return to her hometown to win back her high school sweetheart who is now married with a new baby.
I can understand maybe holding on to a lost high school love in your twenties, but Mavis is 37. It really emphasises the life rut the main character is in. Sure, she was a successful ghost writer and is beautiful (c’mon, it’s Charlize Theron!), but she’s an absolutely horrific person on the inside. I think screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman did a wonderful job in making Mavis as horrible as they could (she ignores her dog, tries to split up a happy marriage and makes disability jokes at Matt’s expense) but still realistic as a person. Young Adult is probably one notch above Bridesmaids in terms of portraying real, and not necessarily likeable, characters. It’s the movie Bad Teacher wants to be.
But back to the metaphor thing: you can’t get much more metaphoric than the actual title of the movie. While Mavis may have graduated from high school and reading YA novels like Sweet Valley High (interestingly, Cody is in the process of adapting Sweet Valley High for the big screen. Perhaps there’s a bit of her in Mavis?) twenty years ago, in her mind, she’s as immature as they come.
*Blanket spoiler alert.
Related: Bridesmaids Review.
Image via IMDb.