Not many movie directors have the courage or talent to bring an unconventional, passive aggressive protagonist who audiences can ultimately relate to without judging them to the screen. But filmmaker Jason Reitman did just that with his new comedy drama ‘Young Adult,’ which is now in limited theatrical release and is set to expand wide on Friday, December 16, 2011. While on the red carpet of the New York premiere of the film on December 8 at the Ziegelfd Theatre, the helmer and producer took the time to discuss with us the process of shooting the movie.
‘Young Adult’ follows Mavis Gary (played by Charlize Theron), an emotionally immature 37-year-old ghostwriter of a once popular teen literature series that has been canceled. While writing the last book in the series, she learns that her high school sweetheart, Buddy Slade (portrayed by Patrick Wilson), just had a daughter with his wife, Beth (played by Elizabeth Reaser). Believing that she’s destined to be with Buddy, and he still longs to be with her as well, she travels from her condo in Minneapolis to her hometown of Mercury, Minnesota to win him back.
Once she arrives in Mercury, Mavis feels that she has a chance with Buddy, as he doesn’t do anything to persuade her to stop. Almost everyone else in her hometown still treats Mavis as though she’s still the popular It girl that she was in high school. No one allows her to move on, including her parents, Hedda (portrayed by Jill Eikenberry) and David (played by Richard Bekins). The only person who challenges Mavis to better herself is her former classmate, Matt Freehauf (portrayed by Patton Oswalt), who idolized her in high school, but who she barely remembers.
Reitman said he was happy to reunite with ‘Young Adult’s screenwriter, Diablo Cody, whose Academy Award-winning script for 2007’s ‘Juno’ he adapted in 2007. The director said he feels Cody is a courageous writer, and is “great at creating characters who have mixed intentions.” He added that he “assumed Diablo knew girls like Mavis in high school,” which is where she came up with the inspiration for the character and story. But Reitman “wasn’t able to relate to Mavis’ intentions and dark agenda because I went to a tough (academic) school in L.A., Beverly Hills actually, and I wasn’t popular.”
Adding that he believes Mavis is a character audiences haven’t seen on screen before, as there have been very few female characters viewers could love to hate, Reitman said he didn’t want to sign onto the film unless he was able to cast Theron in the role. Believing that the Academy Award-winning actress knew how to walk the character’s tonal balance, he felt that she was “wonderful, smart and funny as Mavis.” He also said he thought it was interesting that at times, Theron “wouldn’t create ways to let people on set know that she’s not like her character,” in an effort to truly connect with Mavis.
Reitman also touched on the natural chemistry between Theron and Oswalt on-screen. “Patton and I were friends before we began shooting the film, and he came over to read the script, as a favor to me, so that I could hear it being read. He had an immediate connection to Charlize, and people suggested they should date in real life,” the director said.
While Theron is already receiving awards buzz for her portrayal of Mavis, one of the other notable stars in ‘Young Adult’ is her dog. Reitman said the dog wasn’t trained to appear on a set, and was actually discovered on a street in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. While the dog hadn’t appeared on screen before, the director knew he wanted a Pomeranian, because they’re “the only dogs that are always genetically smiling. She smiled even when Charlize yelled at her,” which offset Mavis’ depressed attitude.
‘Young Adult’ is an intimate portrait into what happens when the popular students peak in high school, and do whatever they can to retain their former glory. Reitman said he knew Theron could play this “passive aggressive mean bitch” who spreads the hate she’s feeling to everyone around her. The Oscar winner played Mavis with the truth of how the former in crowd in high school truly are, and along the way drew sympathy as she looks for a way to improve her life.
Written by: Karen Benardello