REVIEW: Young Adult

15 03 2012

You’ll have to pardon my French throughout this review, but there’s no other way to put it.  “Young Adult” is Diablo Cody’s courtroom drama-style comedy that puts the bitch on trial, both the Hollywood archetype and a very peculiar bitch of her own creation.  It’s really a genius work that serves as a genre deconstruction as well as a story of narcissism and self-loathing in the Facebook age that can stand up on its own two feet.  Then factor in the irresistible pathos of Jason Reitman, a director who tells the most authentic emotional narratives of anyone working in Hollywood today, and you’ve got one of the best movies of 2011.

In anyone else’s hands, Charlize Theron’s Mavis Gary would be a totally unsympathetic, curmudgeonly home-wrecker.  Her vile acts of shameless selfishness draw first our shock, then our ire.  Every minute longer she lingers on the screen, we hate her all the more.  She’s toxic, knows it, and does nothing to change it.

But dare I say it, I actually related to Mavis – way more than I should have, in fact.  While we can’t deny her agency for all her awful deeds, Cody refuses to let her be totally written off as someone mean-spirited down to her core.  Her story takes Mavis back to the root of her problems, her hometown of Mercury, Minnesota.  We get to see the society that spawns the psychotic ex-prom queen, forcing us to wonder how much of her fate is due to society and circumstance.

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F.I.L.M. of the Week (February 5, 2010)

5 02 2010

The “F.I.L.M of the Week” is not independent, just to get that out of the way.  “North Country” is, however, first-rate.  The movie’s critics will probably say, “Haven’t I seen this movie before?  Oh, right, every two hours on Lifetime and Hallmark channels!”  To them, I say – yeah, maybe a little bit.  Sure, it doesn’t stray too far from the stock story of courage in the face of terrible circumstances.  But it has a tremendous power which can make you forgive the formulaic nature of the movie.

This power comes from a fantastic ensemble cast, led by Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand, both of whom received Academy Award nominations for their performances.  Theron plays Josey, a determined woman with two children that she needs to feed.  She moves back to her hometown and takes a job at the local mine, where she can bring home the biggest paycheck.  There are very few women employed there, and the men go out of their way to make sure they know that they aren’t welcome.  Horrible epithets fly and despicable deeds are committed.  The men succeed in their goal of making the women dread coming to work.  Josey and the other women, including the tough-as-nails Glory (McDormand), try to stand up for themselves, only to be told to “take it like a man.”

But what they don’t count on is Josey’s iron will.  She calls friend and lawyer Bill White (Woody Harrelson) to take on a landmark case – the first ever class action sexual harassment suit.  The town instantly turns against her, thinking she might be trying to shut down the mine.  Josey even manages to earn the ire of her father (Richard Jenkins).  But, as all these movies tell us, humanity and courage triumph over all perils.

Keep an eye out for Jeremy Renner, the now Oscar-nominated star of “The Hurt Locker,” who delivers a particularly haunting performance as one of the main perpetrators.  He also has a unique position in the conundrum because he was an old flame of Josey’s during high school.  It’s another role filled with emotional depth that Renner absolutely nails.  If anyone had any doubts, he’s definitely not a one-trick pony.

I’m sure the real events that inspired “North Country” were much less campy and melodramatic.  Nonetheless, the film gets you worked up, emotional, and impassioned.  For just another inspirational movie, that’s about as good it gets.