Appreciate H2O, people. You never know when it’s going to go and make us all crazy.
In a post-apocalyptic version of Earth, where apparently a drought has taken over, everybody’s finding their own ways of surviving. Whether it be through finding water and selling it, or just simply going on the run and picking up whatever resources they can; either way, everybody on the planet is trying to live, and the Holm’s are those kinds of people. Ernest (Michael Shannon), the father and his son, Jerome (Kodi Smit-McPhee), constantly go out in search for booze, in hopes that they can get more water and bring back to their farm, where Mary (Elle Fanning) hangs around and keeps everything together. It’s all quite simple and easy-going for the Holm’s, but it all eventually turns sour once the local rich kid, Flem Lever (Nicolas Hoult), comes around, not just wanting Mary’s hand in-marriage, but also a part of Ernest and Jerome’s business-handlings. The two clearly don’t like this, but Flem has his ways of convincing them, even if that means somebody has to get hurt, and hurt badly.
Movies such as Young Ones are why I want to get more involved with the process of movie-making. See, not only is this a premise that holds so much promise, it’s easy to figure out which places it can go and how effective they’d be, but also because the cast it attracted is quite talented. Michael Shannon in anything is usually compelling, and the young cast that fills in the rest of the major roles is filled with a list of the brightest, young up-and-comers of today’s movie world. And heck, the film itself is even directed by Jake Paltrow who, for what it’s worth, is the younger brother of everybody’s favorite celebrity, Gwyneth, so obviously there has to be some talent, right? Surely all of these factors combined would create something that’s not just memorable, but absolutely worth watching in every right, correct?
Well, that’s not at all what happens here with Young Ones. In fact, quite the opposite.
See, most of the problems this movie runs into is the fact that the story takes a dramatic-turn about half-way through, and hardly ever recovers from it. That’s not to say the twist is “bad” per se; in fact, it’s surprising, unexpected, and interesting, especially when you think about the cast-members, but after that, all the surprises end. The story gets conventional, the characters become less interesting, and the world that this movie presents to us, just continues to get dull.
How could this happen? Well, there’s a problem in that Paltrow doesn’t seem like he has anything more mapped-out for this flick other than just what’s shown to us in the first half-hour. After that, everything gets conventional and boring, as if every major plot-point that could happen, does happen, and makes Young Ones become something of a drinking-game. Meaning, anybody watching at home should probably take a shot as soon as they predict something to happen in the story and it actually happens. I know I sound desperate, but honestly, it’s hard to really build much excitement around a movie that does very little to surprise its audience, or even itself, for that matter.
And to say it’s “not exciting”, is also to say that it’s hardly original. It’s almost as if Paltrow watched Mad Max, was a fan of Westerns, and may have even seen a tiny bit of A Boy and His Dog, because the whole movie feels like a cobble of smart ideas, from better, more well-done movies. Here, they all come together in a jumble that doesn’t feel inspiring and hardly on-purpose; it’s almost as if Paltrow just put them all in the same script and hoped that if he dressed it up enough, people wouldn’t notice the similarities to plenty of other pieces of works.
Problem is, we do and it’s a distraction.
The only interesting, slightly original idea that Paltrow presents to us is in the form of the robotic transporter that nobody really comes up with a name, as much as they just treat it like an animal. It has four-legs, no voice, obviously no emotions, and just a small screen that you can do so much with, even if you don’t know that right away. The way Paltrow incorporates this device into the story is interesting and doesn’t feel like a cop-out, unlike the rest of the film that uses certain plot-threads to conveniently show up as a way to keep the story moving on. Once again, Paltrwo may think he’s being sneaky, but to us, the hopefully smart, enlightened movie-going audience – it’s easily seen.
And this isn’t to put any blame on the cast; this is mostly just a case of a poorly-written script, given to people who either saw plenty more promise in it that originally needed, or were just offered lots of money in the first place, that they couldn’t possibly even turn it down. Whatever the circumstances may have been, it doesn’t matter because the cast tries hard enough to where they make some of it watchable, if at all. But even then though, some of these roles seem like they were written with the respective actor in mind, seeing as how they’ve played the same role before, and hardly ever step away from the norm.
For instance, take Michael Shannon as the father, Ernest, who is gruff, rough, and tough, but has something of a conscience that knows when it’s acceptable to teach his kid’s life-lessons and when to just let them make their own decisions. Shannon seems to be perfect at these kinds of roles and while he’s fine here, it doesn’t really allow him to stretch beyond his acting-limitations and it makes you wonder whether or not this guy has a bad side to him at all. There’s an idea about him being a hard-drinker brought to our attention, but that doesn’t make him a guy with some questionable morals, as much as it just gives him a flaw. That’s it.
The same way it is for Shannon, is the same way for both Smit-McPhee and Fanning. Seeing as how they’re both young talents who literally got their starts in the acting world before they were hardly even potty-trained, it’s understandable that we see them play the same kind of roles and hardly break away from it. Maybe more so in the case of Smit-McPhee, who is, once again, given a role where he plays a slightly strange, nerdy kid that likes to, you guessed it, draw. Hm? Didn’t he seem to play the same kind of character, with the same kind of hobby in another post-apocalyptic tale from this year? Oh yeah, that’s right!
Once again, I’m not saying he does poorly in this role, it’s just that we don’t really get to see him stretch his wings as much in a role like this and it’s a shame. More so, though, in the case of Fanning who is one of those rare cases in which a young, female actress has been given meatier-roles than some male equivalents, but here, Paltrow gives her the annoying role. All Fanning has to do here is nag, cry and stomp away from any argument in anger; which is maybe how Paltrow sees a young female girl as being, but it doesn’t work so well for Fanning.
The only one here who really gets a chance to change things up for himself is Hoult as the oddly-named bastard, Flem Lever. Though we’ve seen Hoult put in good work, we’ve hardly seen him do so as a bad guy, where those hunky, good looks of his are put to dastardly-use. As Flem Lever, Hoult is mean, nasty, and untrustworthy, and while you could possibly call it a one-note performance, Hoult finds some shadings with this character to make him seem sympathetic, if ever so slightly. But, like the rest of the cast, he’s no match for Paltrow’s uneventful script that begins, continues, and ends, probably exactly like you’d expect it to.
Like I said before: Don’t forget the booze while watching this. You’ll need it the most.
Consensus: While Young Ones sports a solid cast and premise, the movie hardly goes anywhere no other movie has gone before, and also seems to be a waste for mostly everybody involved.
3 / 10 = Crapola!!