April 22, 2014

Jason Reitman, Diablo Cody talk Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt and “Young Adult” – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell

Hollywoodnews.com: The last time Jason Reitman directed a Diablo Cody script, audiences were treated to the goofily hip “Juno,” and the Academy was charmed. They went in different directions afterward – he to direct George Clooney through “Up In the Air,” and she to flex her inner demons for “Jennifer’s Body” – but are back together this month with a brutally honest and deceptively funny adult comedy with a teenage-friendly name.

“Young Adult” stars Charlize Theron as a bitchy YA ghost writer knocked off her axis by the announcement that her old flame (Patrick Wilson), now happily married, had a baby. She heads back to her tiny home town to win the poor sap back, and goes toe-to-toe with an ex-classmate (Patton Oswalt) who sees her for who she really is.

With the film preparing to open on Dec. 9 (before going wider a week later), Reitman and Cody met me in New York City to discuss music selections, mirror characters, Mavis Gary and the power of Patton Oswalt:

HollywoodNews.com: Whom do I have to thank for both Teenage Fanclub AND Suicidal Tendencies being used in the same film?

Diablo Cody: The Suicidal Tendencies, I think that was Jason. Teenage Fanclub is all me.

HollywoodNews.com: I honestly thought I was the only person who loved both bands. They wouldn’t run in the same circles, and yet, here they are. And I love Fanclub’s song, “The Concept” …

Cody: I love that song, too. The funny thing is, Jason doesn’t like that song, but he acquiesced to me and put it in there. I could listen to it over and over, just like Mavis.

Jason Reitman: Yeah, those songs were both in the screenplay, and I don’t like either of those songs. But you have to recognize when something is right for the movie.

HollywoodNews.com: That’s actually a bold move for a director, though. It’s the opening of the film. And it’s such a significant part later in the film.

Cody: I have to say, that even surprised me. I thought, “Wow, you really believe in my choices!”

HollywoodNews.com: I relate to Mavis in the movie, and I feel strange admitting that. It makes me feel … I don’t know, mean or nasty. Does that makes sense?

Reitman: Well, Mavis is a mirror for the audience. And hopefully … there are a lot of movies that you look at and you see all sorts of aspirational values in the characters on screen. Mavis is a character where you see things that make you uncomfortable. You see certain negative qualities that you might see in yourself. And that might be the point of her.

Cody: She’s not the sort of shining role model that anyone would want to emulate. But at the same time, you can’t help but relate to her a little bit.

HollywoodNews.com: And that’s what makes her so fascinating. To me, she comes across as one big lie. I see her as being as fictional as the characters she writes about in her YA books.

Cody: So you feel that Mavis isn’t always being truthful?

HollywoodNews.com: Well, yes. Am I reading that the wrong way?

Cody: Well, no, no. I do think that in a lot of movies – and I have to credit Jason with this – the temptation would be to have her evolve and become a more honest person so that the movie can end on an up note. Which it doesn’t. Any progress that she has made is just reversed.

HollywoodNews.com: Which I guess makes her feel better about herself? Maybe safer?

Cody: Yeah! I think a lot of us feel safer in the identities that we have created for ourselves. And it hurts to break out of that.

HollywoodNews.com: Why did you decide to go with Charlize in the role?

Reitman: I think Diablo wrote a really brave screenplay here, that has a really brave third act. We needed an actress who had the courage to play her honestly and not turn Mavis into a villain, but rather into a human being.

HollywoodNews.com: Is that why you went with Patton, as well?

Reitman: Well, we needed an accessibility point on this film, and I think that’s exactly what Patton Oswalt gives. I mean, he’s a great actor and he’s very funny and lovely. But he’s also able to challenge Charlize in a way that I don’t think any other actor could.

HollywoodNews.com: In what way? Can you elaborate on that?

Reitman: [Long pause] I don’t know, actually. I think it probably comes from him being a stand-up comedian, and his ability to stand up to anything. And here comes this actress who is strong, beautiful, and is playing a character who is just a killer. And he’s able to stand up to her.

HollywoodNews.com: Diablo, tell me what it’s like writing for Patton. You’ve been lucky enough to do it for “The United States of Tara,” as well.

Cody: I have! And that’s funny to think about. What a privilege.

HollywoodNews.com: He tells me he isn’t interested in changing much or enforcing his own vision. It’s his job to serve your voice.

Cody: He really just wanted to act. I thought about that, too. I thought, “He’s so funny, he’s going to want to just come in and ad lib.” And I was excited about that, because I am all about actors making me look better with good ad-libs. [Laughs] But he really stuck to the script and just really played it in an honest and true way.

Diablo Cody receiving the “Hollywood Screenwriter Award” at the Hollywood Film Awards Gala

Jason Reitman’s “Young Adult,” starring Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt, opens in theaters on Dec. 9.

Be sure to read our exclusive interview with Theron, as well!

Follow Hollywood News on Twitter for up-to-date news information.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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