And then there must be a certain amount of pressure. The best critics are perceptive. They pick out themes and see things that the average reviewer (and certainly Joe Popcorneater) doesn’t see. It’s not enough that you like or dislike a movie. You have to see the bigger picture. You have to perceive nuance. And to a certain extent you have to fall in line with other critics. If most major reviewers rave over something and you thought it was the dog’s breakfast then you’re obviously not as deep and qualified to judge cinema as they are. I call this the “Woody Allen” syndrome. I often wonder how many free passes he received on bad movies because critics thought if they didn’t like his picture it was their fault not his. Same with the Coen Brothers. Once a filmmaker has made one or two gems they are sometimes treated with kid gloves when the next one is a stinkburger.
(Ultimately, it evens out at the end because once these same critics decide the filmmaker or artist is no longer the flavor of the month, the backlash is way over the top. I call this the “Nicole Kidman” syndrome.)
Anyway, I bring this up as a way to make sense of the positive reviews I've seen for YOUNG ADULT. (By the way, no SPOILER ALERT necessary.)
Now understand, I couldn’t wait to see this movie. I looked forward to it the way fanboys are already in line for the new Batman movie that doesn't open for six months. I love director Jason Reitman. I love Charlize Theron. I love Patton Oswalt. I love dark comedies. And I really love screenwriter Diablo Cody.
I read the reviews. Critics called it brilliant, brave, breathtakingly cynical, mesmerizing, bold, pitch-perfect, hilarious, wickedly funny, fearless, and my favorite – the film’s messiness is a virtue. Huh??
I was practically salivating!
And my reaction: what a dud . Either I’m not as insightful as movie critics or this is the Emperor’s New Clothes.
First of all, the film was slow. It was only 94 minutes but felt like two-and-a-half hours. And yes, I applaud Charlize Theron’s performance but she’s always great. And Patton Oswalt was funny but he's one of the funniest people on the planet. (In fairness, he’s also a surprisingly terrific actor), but I just didn’t connect with Theron’s character. Now granted it’s a hard-sell going in when your lead is a raving bitch and only wants to break up a happy marriage with a newly arrived baby. But I didn’t know what I was supposed to feel. Was I supposed to be sympathetic to her because she was so damaged? Or was I supposed to take delight in how this ultimate "C.U. Next Tuesday" was getting hers?
Maybe if Theron’s character were funnier or more audacious, or more… something.
Half of the movie we see her drink herself into oblivion, order and eat junk food, brood, apply make up, select clothing, and drive by Staples. Am I missing the brilliance or are some critics just covering their asses?
Perhaps my expectations were just too high. If this was some little indie feature I saw at the Death Valley Film Festival I might’ve shrugged and said, “Way too long but good air conditioning”. But as a movie vying for Oscar nominations and considering the pedigree involved I think calling it brilliant, brave, breathtakingly cynical, mesmerizing, bold, pitch-perfect, hilarious, wickedly funny, fearless was overly generous. The film's messiness is absolutely not a virtue.
"Don't waste your time on this one. Go bowling instead."
-- Ken Levinestupid blogger
What did you guys think?