Parents' Guide to

Young Adult

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Scathingly funny "mean girl" story has lots of drinking.

Movie R 2011 94 minutes
Young Adult Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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Is It Any Good?

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Kids say (4 ):

As a cautionary tale to young mean girls, this is a fabulous film, but to those seeking a little heart in their main characters, it's a bitter pill indeed. Director Jason Reitman knows how to make flawed, unapologetic characters lovable, whether it's a pro-tobacco lobbyist (Thank You for Smoking), a pregnant teenager (Juno) or an executive frequent flyer (Up in the Air). But in Young Adult, Reitman (reuniting with Oscar-winning Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody) dares to offer audiences a completely unlikable, narcissistic, delusional, selfish protagonist whose personal journey leads her basically nowhere. It's daring, because Mavis isn't an anti-hero or a sociopath or a jerk with a secret heart of gold; she's just an entitled "psychobitch" (to quote the movie) who thinks she can snap her fingers, and her high school boyfriend will leave his wife and newborn daughter to be with her.

Technically, this is a crisply written and well acted (Theron does an incredible mean girl) black comedy. Theron and Oswalt have a hilariously magnetic connection, and he, in particular, is the heart and soul and sense of the story. Matt alone stands up to Mavis and forces her to hear truths that she's nowhere near ready to internalize. This is going to end badly, he implores her to understand; but it's also a warning to the audience. But Mavis has no lightning-bolt revelation -- no apologies, no awareness that she should alter the course of her self-absorbed life. Like the shallow teen heroine she's writing about throughout the film, Mavis thinks her beauty deserves to be recognized and loved, no matter how awful she is to everyone around her.

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