Young Adult
Young adult ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJason Reitman
Written byDiablo Cody
Produced by
  • Lianne Halfon
  • Russell Smith
  • Diablo Cody
  • Mason Novick
  • Jason Reitman
CinematographyEric Steelberg
Edited byDana E. Glauberman
Music byRolfe Kent
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • December 9, 2011 (2011-12-09)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$12 million[1]
Box office$22.9 million[2]

Young Adult is a 2011 American comedy-drama film directed by Jason Reitman, written by Diablo Cody, and starring Charlize Theron. Reitman and Cody worked together previously on Juno (2007). Young Adult began a limited release on December 9, 2011, before expanding to a wide release on December 16, 2011. It received generally positive reviews from critics, and Theron earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.[3]


Mavis Gary is a 37-year-old divorced, alcoholic ghost writer of a series of young adult novels, on deadline with her editor to finish the last book of the soon-to-be-canceled series. Mavis receives an e-mail with a picture of the newborn daughter of her high school boyfriend Buddy Slade and his wife Beth. Believing it to be a sign she and Buddy are meant to be together, Mavis leaves Minneapolis, returning to her hometown of Mercury, Minnesota, to reclaim her life with Buddy, under the pretext of overseeing a real estate deal.

Arriving after listening to "The Concept" by Teenage Fanclub from an old mixtape Buddy gave her in high school, Mavis arranges to meet him the next day at a local sports bar, for old times' sake. Beforehand, she goes alone to the bar, Woody's. There she reconnects with a former classmate she barely remembers, Matt Freehauf, who became disabled after being beaten by jocks who erroneously assumed he was gay. He tells her that her plan to reclaim Buddy is irrational and selfish, but she ignores him.

The following day, Mavis meets Buddy at the bar, where they see Matt again, as he is the bookkeeper. On their way out, Buddy invites Mavis to a performance of Beth's "mom rock band". Mavis spends another night getting drunk with Matt, who distills homemade bourbon in his garage where he lives with his sister Sandra. On another outing with him, Mavis also runs into a cousin who lives locally. When Mavis attends the gig, the other moms are resentful of Mavis, whom they remember as the "psychotic prom queen bitch". When Beth's band performs, the lead singer dedicates their opening song to Buddy from Beth; "The Concept".

Beth wants to stay out longer, so Mavis offers to drive the drunk Buddy home. On the lawn, they share a kiss that is quickly broken up when the babysitter opens the front door to greet them. The next day, after an awkward encounter with her parents, who didn't know Mavis was in town, Mavis is invited to Buddy's daughter's naming ceremony. She later goes out drinking with Matt again, and he tells her to grow up. The following day, Mavis attends the party, where she declares her love for Buddy, but he rebuffs her. Everyone at the party is called out to the lawn to await a surprise Buddy has prepared for Beth. Mavis, who has been drinking, collides with Beth, who accidentally spills punch on Mavis's dress. Mavis insults her and, in a profanity-laced tirade, tearfully revealing she became pregnant with Buddy's baby years ago but had a miscarriage at three months.

Buddy, who has been preparing a drum-set gift for Beth in the garage, opens the garage door and belatedly learns what has transpired. Mavis asks him why he invited her. He reveals it was Beth's idea, as she feels sorry for Mavis. Humiliated, Mavis leaves and visits Matt, where she breaks down in tears and, later, initiates sex. The following morning, while Matt sleeps, Mavis has coffee in the kitchen with Sandra, who still idolizes her. Mavis talks about needing to change herself, but Sandra says Mavis is better than the rest of Mercury and should not change. Mavis says she agrees and prepares to return to Minneapolis. Sandra asks to go with her but Mavis declines and leaves alone.

In a diner on her way home, Mavis writes the ending of the book, in which the main character graduates high school, quickly leaves her past behind, and looks forward to the future. Afterward, in the parking lot, she glances at the crumpled bumper of her car, before driving off.



Screenwriter Diablo Cody said the genesis of the film came from her encounters with the press:

This common question I would get at Q&As or press junkets or what-have-you was: "Why are you so fixated on [movies about] adolescents?" [I began wondering:] Am I stunted somehow? And so as I thought about my own life, I thought, "Gosh, that would be a great character—a woman in her 30s who writes young-adult fiction and does in fact cling to deluded teenage fantasies in her real life, and is obsessed with recreating her teenage years come hell or high water."[1]

Writing a spec script, she sent drafts to her friend and Juno director, Jason Reitman, to critique. When the production of Labor Day, a film Reitman had been preparing, was pushed to 2012, a window developed during which he could direct Cody's script, which was shot on a $12 million budget in 30 days.[1] The movie's location shooting was in Minnesota, while the bulk of the movie, set in the fictional town of Mercury, was shot north of New York City in the towns of White Plains, Nanuet, New City, Tappan, Ardsley, and Port Chester, and in the Long Island towns of Garden City and Massapequa Park, the last of which included Woody's Village Saloon. A few days were also shot on a soundstage at JC Studios in Brooklyn.[4]

Following Charlize Theron and Patrick Wilson's casting, Patton Oswalt was signed after doing a table read-through of the script at Reitman's house.[1] Oswalt said that because his character, Matt Freehauf, had been badly beaten as a teen and was required to walk with a brace, he consulted both an acting coach and a physical therapist to prepare for the role: "I just wanted less and less to have to think about so I could be more present in the scenes with Charlize. She's a really instinctual actor and I really didn't want to be sitting there with eight other thoughts in my head while she's just rolling with it."[5]

Young Adult was screened out of competition at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival.[6]


Critical response

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 80% based on 195 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Despite its somewhat dour approach, Young Adult is a funny and ultimately radical no-holds-barred examination of prolonged adolescence, thanks largely to a convincing performance by Charlize Theron."[7] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 71 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[8]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four, writing, "After I left the screening of Young Adult, my thoughts were mixed. With Thank You for Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air, Jason Reitman has an incredible track record. Those films were all so rewarding. The character of Mavis makes Young Adult tricky to process. As I absorbed it, I realized what a fearless character study it is. That sometimes it's funny doesn't hurt."[9] Kyle Buchanan of Vulture called Mavis "a woman that dares the audience to dislike her",[10] but Maureen Johnson of the Huffington Post stated that she is "mentally ill" and "suffers from depression, alcoholism, and trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling)".[11]

Tom Long of The Detroit News wrote, "Young Adult may be the year's most engaging feel-bad movie".[12] A. O. Scott of The New York Times praised the film, writing, "Shorter than a bad blind date and as sour as a vinegar Popsicle, Young Adult shrouds its brilliant, brave and breathtakingly cynical heart in the superficial blandness of commercial comedy."[13] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film three stars out of four, saying, "In this tale of stunted development, Theron is a comic force of nature, giving her character considerable density and humanity despite her monstrous aspects. And Patton Oswalt deserves cheers as Matt, a former classmate who pops Mavis's delusions with soul-crushing honesty. His dark duet with Theron is funny, touching and vital. But fair warning: The laughs in Young Adult leave bruises."[14] Richard Roeper awarded the film an A grade, stating "Charlize Theron delivers one of the most impressive performances of the year".[15]

The film appeared on many critics' lists of the best films of 2011.[16]

Awards and nominations

Award Date of ceremony Category Nominee(s) Result
American Cinema Editors[17][18] February 18, 2012 Best Edited Feature Film – Comedy or Musical Dana E. Glauberman Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association December 19, 2011 Best Supporting Actor Patton Oswalt Nominated
Critics' Choice Movie Awards January 12, 2012 Best Actress Charlize Theron Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Diablo Cody Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Patton Oswalt Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association December 16, 2011 Best Actress Charlize Theron Nominated
Golden Globe Award January 15, 2012 Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Nominated
Hollywood Film Festival[19] October 24, 2011 Screenwriter of the Year Diablo Cody Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association December 11, 2011 Best Supporting Actor Patton Oswalt 2nd place
National Society of Film Critics January 7, 2012 Best Supporting Actor 3rd place
Palm Springs International Film Festival[20] January 7, 2012 Chairman's Vanguard Award Jason Reitman (director)
Diablo Cody (writer)
Charlize Theron (actress)
Patton Oswalt (actor)
Santa Barbara International Film Festival[21] February 3, 2012 Virtuoso Award Patton Oswalt Won
Satellite Award December 18, 2011 Best Actress - Motion Picture Charlize Theron Nominated
Toronto Film Critics Association December 14, 2011 Best Supporting Actor Patton Oswalt Nominated
Writers Guild of America Award February 19, 2012 Best Original Screenplay Diablo Cody Nominated


  1. ^ a b c d Lovece, Frank (November 30, 2011). "High School Disunion: Charlize Theron, Diablo Cody & Jason Reitman on 'Young Adult'". Film Journal International. Archived from the original on November 30, 2011. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  2. ^ "Young Adult (2011)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  3. ^ McClintock, Pamela (July 25, 2011). "Charlize Theron Starrer 'Young Adult' Opens in Limited Release Dec. 9". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on November 22, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
  4. ^ Lovece, Frank (December 1, 2011). "LI Bar Manager Is on Tap for 'Young Adult'". Sidebar to story "Charlize Theron Gets an 'Adult' Education", Newsday. Archived from the original on December 22, 2011.
  5. ^ "Oswalt Digs Deep for Serious Turn in 'Young Adult'". The Canadian Press wire service via November 28, 2011. Archived from the original on November 30, 2011. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  6. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (January 17, 2012). "'Young Adult' & Doc 'Side By Side' Featuring Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan & More Headed To Berlin". IndieWire. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  7. ^ "Young Adult (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  8. ^ "Young Adult Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  9. ^ "Young Adult :: :: Reviews". Retrieved 2012-09-08.
  10. ^ Buchanan, Kyle (2014-02-28). "Does Charlize Theron Cross the Line in Young Adult?". Vulture. Retrieved 2014-04-10.
  11. ^ Haglund, David (2011-12-20). "In Young Adult, Charlize Theron Isn't "Unlikable," She's Mentally Ill". Retrieved 2014-04-10.
  12. ^ Sep. 8, 2012 (2011-12-16). "Review: 'Young Adult' offers cruelly mature fun". The Detroit News. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
  13. ^ Scott, A. O. (December 8, 2011). "Charlize Theron in 'Young Adult' - Review". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Travers, Peter (2011-12-08). "Young Adult". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
  15. ^ Roeper, Richard. "Young Adult Review". Richard Roeper & The Movies / Reelz Channel. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
  16. ^ "The Top Tens of 2011: 210 Lists And Counting « Movie City News". Retrieved 2012-09-08.
  17. ^ Fischer, Russ (January 16, 2012). "American Cinema Editors Release Nominees For Achievement in Editing in 2011". /Film. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  18. ^ Finke, Nikki (February 18, 2012). "62nd Ace Eddie Awards: 'The Descendants', 'The Artist', 'Rango'; TV 'Breaking Bad', 'Homeland', 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  19. ^ Feinberg, Scott (October 25, 2011). "15th Annual Hollywood Film Awards Kicks Off Season of Awards Shows". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  20. ^ Semigran, Aly (December 13, 2011). "'Young Adult' ensemble to receive Vanguard Award at Palm Springs Film Festival". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  21. ^ Feinberg, Scott (February 4, 2012). "SBIFF 2012: Virtuosos Include Hilarious Patton Oswalt, Shirtless Andy Serkis". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 22, 2013.