Patton Oswalt on Young Adult, Great Chemistry and the Downside of Nostalgia


Between this film and Big Fan, you seem to thrive in the cinema of discomfort. Is that coincidence, or is that the character space you like to inhabit?

I hate to say this, but it's pure coincidence, because I am not at a stage of my career where I get to pick my projects. I do seem to be comfortable in that space, so maybe... I don't want to overstay my welcome there, but I do think that is a very real human condition: Discomfort, or displacement, or having your own identity begin to flicker and fade a little bit, and then you have to keep reconstituting it. Or, as in the case of Big Fan, it flickers and fades and then you have to let it go -- which is very tragic thing that I think happens a lot. I don't know why I'm so comfortable with that. At least lately -- these last 10 years -- I feel pretty comfortable being who I'm being. But when I was younger -- especially when I was in high school or college -- I would change my outlook and identity on a dime because I just didn't know who I was for the longest time. I think people go through that to a certain extent in high school and college; I maybe went through it a little longer than most people. But then, when it really solidified... Maybe I just have those memories. And also, because I went through it for so long, I can spot it in other people.

Why do you think you went through it for so long?

Because I grew up in such a featureless, personality-less suburb. There was nothing to push against. People who come from Jersey or the Deep South or let's say someplace in the Pacific Northwest -- a place where there's a very specific identity and accent and culture -- they can either choose to accept it or rebel against it. We were living in a bedroom community outside of D.C. There was no culture or identity or accent or personality. I was just constantly in this void. I would also get things five years too late -- listening to the Repo Man soundtrack in '84 and thinking I'd discovered punk. That kind of thing was always going on. It wasn't until I went to college and met different people from different areas of life -- and then went to San Francisco and met people who really knew who the hell they were -- that I kind of caught up in a hurry.

You're on Twitter, and social media as a whole is obviously one of the biggest phenomena of our time. But this film doesn't feature any of that. Most people in Mavis's case would probably just go and Facebook-stalk the hell out of Buddy. Do you think Young Adult should have at least recognized that?

The thing is, look at the characters we're following here: Buddy and his wife are so happy with each other. There is a part of my generation that is not on social media because they have happy lives and they're not trying to connect with anybody. And there are other people who are on social media because they need to connect. I'll bet Mavis is on Facebook; they just didn't show it because it was a dead-end for her. And I'll bet Matt's on the Internet a lot as an anonymous commenter; I'll bet he doesn't have a Web presence of his own personality. That's another big factor: If that's going on in you life, then that's not something you share with other people. You know? Mavis wouldn't dare say that she went on Facebook and tried to find Buddy, just as I would never dare mention to Mavis, "Oh, if you just saw the scathing stuff I wrote about the last Fringe episode on their message board..." So yes, there's a lot of social media, but what's really weird is that a lot of it isn't discussed in real life. Anyone who says, "Hey, read this Twitter I wrote," they've got to subconsciously know that everyone is going, "Oh, fuck off. Are you kidding?"

When Matt says to Mavis, "Guys like me are born loving women like you," did you relate to that?

Oh, absolutely. The story of my life! "Why is she going out with that ridiculously hot, physically perfect specimen? Doesn't she see the cool lead figure I painted? Doesn't she know I know every member of the Justice League?" It's just that weird resentment, you know? "Why don't my gifts appeal to that person?"

What do you think happens to Matt? Where do you think he is today?

I have very specific ideas as to what happens to Matt, to Mavis, to Sandra... Sandra? When that door closes on that kitchen? Or Buddy and his wife when they wake up the next day. But I will never say what they are, because every screening I've been to, I hear people in the lobby start talking about what happens in the next scene. They're all different, and they're all right. They all have their own opinions. I love that about this movie -- it makes you go, "Well then what the fuck do you think happens?" But I will never say. I will neeeevver say. But I have very specific ideas.

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