I’m doing pretty well with this Fifty Fifty Me thing. Two books down, plus four movies. “A Small Act” is a fabulous documentary that was filmed in Kenya around the time that I was there, in 2007. “The Devil Inside” is a load of crap and is actually comedic (though not on purpose), not a horror movie as advertised. “Source Code” is harmless, silly fun. Today’s movie was “Young Adult,” and it is really, really wonderful.
I feel so entrenched in critical and literary theory that I don’t know how or what makes something “good” anymore, but if it has something to do with being full of things that you can point out as funny or astute or literary or apt, or if you can think of a thesis statement for an interesting analysis of the film/book/whatever, that must be a good start, right?
I have only read Maureen Johnson’s HuffPo review of “Young Adult,” and she and I think many of the same things, so I have no idea of the kind of press or critical reception or mainstream reception the film is getting. But I hope it’s positive. That said, I have little faith in that, just because it’s the kind of movie that could appear to be very silly, and since most people in America don’t care to develop critical skills, I feel like “Young Adult” might end up shoved in a category with silly movies when it is anything but.
It’s uncanny how good this movie is at capturing current YA trends, from adults being interested in them to the inter-influence of reality television and YA lit, to the way that current culture and economy makes us young adults for much longer than just adolescence, to the fact that major series are written by ghostwriters–AND it manages to get a vampire joke in there. It’s full of product placement (I’m not sure if it’s real product placement or just made to look like it since it takes place in Products Galore, Minneapolis) and often shows shots of reality television, reminding us how our lives revolve around comparing our lives to real but fake lives on TV. Unlike “Sex and the City” and every other chick flick about “writers,” this one actually shows that they don’t live wealthy, crazy lifestyles, and instead portrays the challenges of being a creative person alongside the challenge of stifled emotional and age-appropriate development and presents what I think is a very real depiction of depression+mental illness+binge drinking which is a real issue these days with Gen Y and goes largely un-talked about, because “it’s just college.” Clearly it’s not. And yes, Charlize Theron’s character in this movie is 37, so she’s not exactly Gen Y, but that’s another thing that our current era is doing is prolonging adolescent issues like binge drinking and refusal of responsibility. Right on, Diablo Cody, right on.
Also, three cheers for an ending that keeps the bitchy girl being a bitch, and without anything (too) unrealistic happening. No wedding at the end. No apologizing for being evil. No realizing that it’s not okay to treat people like crap. If what makes things literary is keeping them unhappy, again, this movie wins because it’s more like real life, in that people can change or be changed, but no change is completely instant and all-encompassing. You get the sense that Mavis, the protagonist, is changed somewhat by her experiences, but that a depressive alcoholic is also what she is, and also, her mistakes are what keep her writing. A sad but true part of being a creative type is that you have maintain some level of disrepair in some aspect of your life, I think, in order to be in the mindset to create. I dare you to prove me wrong.
It’s weird, but my one, tiny experience on a student film has really put me in a totally different mindset when I watch movies. I’m constantly thinking about shots and takes and angles, and considering what the director’s ideas might have been, and I’m even more interested in trying some screenwriting. After all, I adored writing plays and skits for drama class when I was young, and my strength in all fiction workshops is always dialogue. So that’s what I’ve been thinking about in watching these movies. This is why I was at all able to get through “The Devil Inside” (well, that and the cute guy at the movie with me), and that’s why I loved every second of “Young Adult” but also really wanted it to be over so that I could come home and think and write about it. Yeah, I’m a dork. And yeah, you should see this movie.