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"Young Adult" Chat: Diablo, Charlize, Patton... and Candace?

This Friday night at the DGA Theater in Manhattan, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody's post-Juno reunion was unveiled for guild members. The second time was also a charm so I hope they keep working together. For such a dark and discomfiting comedy (many of the best laughs come while cringing reflexively), I thought the screening went very well with no walkouts and much laughter but my guest was more skeptical. He felt like the laughter was coming from very specific pockets of the theater which may well be true since it's a movie that some people will "get" (i.e. respond to) and others will probably leave in disgust since it keeps defying expectations, driving drunkenly up to traditional beats / redemptive arcs, only to turn its nose up at them and swerve off that well-paved road again.  We weren't allowed to take pictures, so I was playing court reporter and sketching the panel which included...

From left: Moderator Candace Bushnell, actress Charlize Theron, screenwriter Diablo Cody, actor Patton Oswalt and actress Elizabeth Reiser.

I kept altering the Candace drawing, sketching beer bottles strewn about her, adding bubbles in the air, because the real life "Carrie Bradshaw" was a MESS, all slurry, mealy mouthed, self absorbed and just not pulling it together. At one point after several repeated interludes wherein she managed to go on and on about the movie or her feelings about without asking a question, she began to compare Charlize's character "Mavis Gray" with Kim Cattrall's "Samantha Jones" in Sex & The City, which proved to be too much for the already patience-tested audience.


...one man shouted from somewhere in the middle of the theater.

But through her haze of something, Candace touched on and was maybe even a living embodiment of the point she was attempting to make: certain types of behavior and some very famous characters that we enjoy onscreen would be absolutely insufferable in real life settings. Young Adult lays this down with nuanced flair.

Despite the problematic "Q" half of the Q&A session, the "A" was terrific. Diablo Cody was clever (no surprise), Patton Oswalt was just hilarious (apparently this is not a surprise if you're familiar though I wasn't having only seen him in The United States of Tara) and Charlize and Elizabeth managed to wring laughs from the crowd, too. It's kind of disgusting that Charlize, in addition to being one of the most beautiful women in the world is also one of the most talented and has a great sense of humor. Abundance of riches, that, and the movie wouldn't have worked at all without someone of her caliber headlining.

My recorder mysteriously contains only silence for 25 minutes  --wtf? -- so I can't share the highlights I intended to (wah-wah) but [SPOILER] the funniest moment came when Patton Oswalt was discussing his nude scene with Charlize and an audience member asked if he worked out from nerves beforehand. He said that going to the gym for his body would be like building a nice awning over a pile of rubble... and nothing would have ever helped being on camera with Charlize. Why couldn't he have done a nude scene with, like, Michael Moore instead? [/SPOILER]. Another good bit was Charlize talking about how unpopular she was in high school followed by a self-deprecating 'I'm sure you all feel very sorry for me.'

Here's the Q&A guests at another event that same night. (They didn't change clothes so I assume they were back-to-back events)

Oscar Nominations?
While the whole cast of Young Adult is sharp about how to play the tricky tone, particularly Collette Wolfe in a crucial role as Patton Oswalt's sister, most of them have very small roles (it's Theron & Oswalt's party...and they do throw one.) Charlize is a deserving contender for Best Actress but given how traditionally strong her competition is (what with easy Oscar gets like biopic mimicry and career narratives like "long gestating dream role" in the mix) she's no lock. That said she nails a complicated character who is in every scene and requires both finely honed comedic skill and a nuanced dramatic undertow. Patton Oswalt has both an easier role (audience voice / surrogate... to an extent) and an easier shot at Supporting Actor. I suspect the film is far too distinctive, tightly focused and resistant to catharsis for wider Oscar play so it's all about the writer's branch.

The Original Screenplay category this year is a fascinating beast. Six of the hottest tickets in this category (Young Adult, Beginners, Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris, The Artist, Win Win) are either straight up comedies or dramas with very pronounced comedic sensibilities... so will they go there? Good news for Young Adult: Original Screenplay is a bit kinder to dramedies and comedies than other categories tend to be. You don't have to look back too far for a year that tilts comedic (the 2008 lineup includes Happy Go Lucky, Wall•E and In Bruges) though many of the years are as heavy on angsty drama as the lead acting categories tend to be. 



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Reader Comments (15)

Was that Diana Ross over the final credits? I had to leave the screening I attended on Thursday before I could make sure, although the voice is unmistakeable, and oddly appropriate for the film. (No confirmation on IMDb or Wikipedia.)

I could see Charlize nabbing some critics' prizes and getting snubbed by the Academy for her excellent work in this.

November 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I see her as a real possibility nomination,if she wins the globe over Williams,i am not sold on close as a lock yet.

November 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMARK

I'm not sold on most of them as "locks" yet given that it's a very competitive year and we haven't even had one real precursor bit of action yet.

November 20, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I'm really excited to see what Elizabeth Reaser and Collette Wolfe do next. Reaser is almost done with those Twilight films - Collette just appeared with Natalie Portman and Mindy Kaling at that LACMA reading of 'The Apartment' which Jason Reitman directed.

November 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLola

Oh, I just can't wait to see this. I liked Juno, but I didn't love it - this, however, really appeals to me, and no matter how many times I watch the trailer and released clips, I laugh out loud. Charlize is so terrific in them. Plus she was brilliant in a (much wackier) comedic role in Arrested Development.

November 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I hadn't heard of Oswalt until Tara either, Nat, but since then I've seen a couple of his stand-up specials on Netflix. He apparently also did a series of comedy albums (I thought that was an extinct species.) I preferred him on Tara to his stand-up act - he found the sweet spot between the characters annoying and endearing qualities. I'm actually looking forward to seeing this film.

Yay for Charlize having a sense of humor about herself - I read years ago that she grew up in genuinely hard circumstances in South Africa, so perhaps that's why she often seems more genuinely likeable and self-aware, less often "tone-deaf" (someone correct me if they know differently) than Kidman, Paltrow or Portman.

November 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

I fucking LOVE Juno, so I can't wait for this! I was actually just watching the trailers for this last night as well as clips from Monster. Charlize is just an amazing actress. I can tell this movie, while comedic, will be a dramatic with an intricate/complicated lead character.

I'm sure she's totally deserving of a nomination, but with so many typical Oscar contenders, I'm not sure...

I would love if her and Kirsten could make it! (Lol yeah right)

November 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Patton Oswalt showed some nice chops in "Big Fan." More people should see him in that film to know what's he capable of. "United States of Tara" was good for him too, even though the show ended before its time.

I like this new phase of Charlize's career that she's in. I think someone called it her "post-Oscar, don't-give-a-fuck stage" where she's saying what she wants and doing what she wants b/c she has nothing to prove. I mean, after "Monster," there's nothing much left to conquer. I loved "Juno" and "Tara" ("Jennifer's Body"? Not so much, Miss Diablo), so I can't wait to see "Young Adult." "Juno" subverted a lot of my preconceived notions of what a coming of age teen "comedy" would be like, so I hope that "Young Adult" does that for the next age bracket.

November 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBillBill

@BillBill - Theron may be in a POST-post-Oscar, don't-give-a-f@#$ stage of her career now (thank God), but she certainly wasn't immune to the unfortunate inclination many Best Actress winners (Paltrow, Berry, Kidman, Swank, etc.) have: to "cash in" on their Oscars, with low-grade projects unworthy of them (e.g. Aeon Flux, Hancock), at the sake of long-term career prospects.

Unlike Witherspoon, for instance, Theron at least seems to have wised up and become more disciminating about the quality scripts and talent with whom she's willing to work. (It's a shame though that her pas-de-deux with Streep, Kimberly Pierce's The Ice at the Bottom of the World, never materialized.)

November 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

P.S. I've said it before but have to give credit again to Bullock (and Winslet, too), who seems to be making all the right post-Oscar career moves (e.g. taking time off to avert backlash-inducing ubiquitous, choosing auteur-driven challenging projects). Even if her Oscar win was an affront, you at least can respect her for trying to burnish her rep and retroactive bonafides.

November 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

So excited for this, loved Juno. I wonder if they'll collaborate again, loving the pairing so far. People can't be serious when they say the only/first thing theyve seen patton oswalt in was United states of Tara? that was so recent compared to the last decade of work he's been putting out all over the place. He's not a star but he's one of those actors that will guest appear on many sitcoms(King of Queens does not compute for anyone?) or do VH1 commentary and whatnot. im just sayin', he's been around and ill always root for actors like him. GO GET YOURS!

November 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPoppy

Poppy -- i am serious. I don't watch VH1 and don't watch that many sitcoms -- too busy watching/writing about movies -- so where would i have known him from?

November 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Ratatouille. (Well, his voice anyway.)

November 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Paul -- who did he play?

November 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

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