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.
JUST ASK A QUESTION!!!"
...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)
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.