26 December 2011

Review: Young Adult

Genre: Comedy

As Cate Blanchett so quippingly said playing the great Kate Hepburn, "Follow through is everything in golf, just like life. [Chuckles] Don't'ya find?" (The Aviator, 2004). Screenwriter and second-time collaborator with director Mr. Reitman, Ms. Cody should have paid closer heed to the line, one that she seemed to know so well in her earlier work for the screen (see Juno, 2007); for here, in Young Adult (an almost nonetheless enthralling adaptation of the popular version of the Snow White fairy tale, told in the cunning guile of a contemporary like Gregory Maguire [i.e., in the person of the traditional villain]), she loses the tight and controlled momentum that she sets barrelling toward inevitable splinters. True, the barrel does still reach a splintery end, but that end is far more a disintegration than a fraction: The rigor of the imposed endogenous drama loses its stiffness, sloshing back somewhat dilute into its glass instead of spraying forcedly over broken shards.

This type of restraint may be purposeful, indeed; the sacrificial lamb climbs onto its altar in fully willful ignorance of its own known demise. Yet, portraying such ignoble and blatant masochism, such quasi-psychotic self-administered anesthesia as what does happen to Ms. Theron's character, is a hard slip to let slide. Though unlike so many other scenarios in which the same criticism could be made, in this scenario the storyline nor its heroine becomes any less plausible than it or she had been previously. Rather, here the two lose their respective trajectories, meant to take them full arch (i.e., from preening Queen through haggard witch to ephemeral spirit, villainy vanquished). Shucking back into her isolated castle, content to shut out the world and self-caress in front of her magical mirror (however funhouse crazy), she swerves from effort and real growth and ceases her transformation cold, only to enable her regression to her original self. While arguably this path may be more "realistic" to both her character's true nature and people in general, can such post-modern realism manifest itself completely in a non-nihilistic way? If not, then - more pressingly - how can one critically evaluate the abandonment of classical tropes for nihilism: certainly not as the logical progression of the tale throughout the history of surrounding perceptions, but perhaps as the voguish overlay onto the conventional perception?

What more, then, do you have to say Ms. Cody than to throw your hands up at the state of certain parts of contemporary culture? Worse than suggesting that you no longer possess a stronger gift of storytelling than one could otherwise believe, you've suggested that you no longer see value in even wishing to attempt a recommendation of improvement. Do you believe that it's time for us all to throw in our towels and concede, or did you really have more to communicate that still went unsaid?

While Ms. Cody struggled to keep her rather brilliant first act vibrant and alert throughout the play's latter two acts, Ms. Theron and Mr. Reitman I must say were there contributing hugely to the cause. Mr. Reitman's distinct directive fingerprints are all over the symbols and the structure of the film, made all the smarter by his strict and consistent editorial choices. Mr. Theron then thrived within this constrained stylistic environment and found that her timing as well her ability to act facially only - an incredibly hard skill - can be extremely resolute under glass; she delivered a wonderful performance, embodying a difficult role (part Queen, part hag, part beauty, party beautician) with balance, strength, and control.

These impressive shows by the creative team as a whole made Young Adult the nearly quite enjoyable film that it was. Despite lost words (which one can hope were mistakenly retracted just this one time from a finished product by Ms. Cody), the film still remains one of the finest original works this year: No one else could surprise me with Snow White so plainly.

Grade: B+

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