Various Artists, Young Adult: Music from the Motion Picture

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 12.14.11 in Reviews

Various Artists
Packed with ’90s alt-rock classics

The soundtrack to the latest film from director Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Juno, Thank You For Smoking) defines his central character through the songs she listened to in high school. Although actress Charlize Theron’s Mavis Gary may dress like a contemporary woman, she’s emotionally stuck in the ’90s, when she and her old flame Buddy were prom queen and king. Rather than the Brian Adams/Mariah Carey/Celine Dion power ballads that crowned status might imply, Young Adult is packed with alternative rock classics that shrewdly reflect Mavis’s dreams and destructiveness. Beneath the beauty treatments and pro-grade makeup, Mavis is an extraordinarily angry gal: The raging of Veruca Salt’s “Seether” and Suicidal Tendencies’ “Pledge Your Allegiance” compliments the wistfulness of the Replacements’ “Achin’ to Be” and the Lemonheads’ “It’s a Shame About Ray.” Although it was released back in 1972, Diana Ross’s rendition of “When We Grow Up” from the Ms. Foundation for Women kids TV special Free to Be… You and Me is a little stroke of genius; it’s sunny and self-accepting in ways that Mavis most certainly is not. More ’90s-toned irony comes in the form of Juno composer Mateo Messina’s easy listening versions of Faith No More, Pearl Jam, Beck, Foo Fighters and Soundgarden hits that are so subtly used in the film they’re barely there. Like Mavis herself, their prettiness masks the darkness within.