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New Yorker December 15 issue carries the review on the recently released comedy, “Young Adult,” written by Diablo Cody, directed by Jason Reitman, and starring Charlize Theron as a heroine.

It reads:

“The movie was shot not in Minnesota but in White Plains and central Long Island, which only reinforces the point that so much of the country looks the same, feels the same. But are Cody and Reitman too clever by half? Have they loaded the case? They don’t produce anyone (besides Buddy holding his child) who gives a damn about anything.”

As I didn’t get the exact idea of “Have they loaded the case?” I tried to find its definition online. Neither of Cambridge nor M-W online dictionaries registers ‘load the case.’ OED registers ‘load the base’ as baseball terminology meaning ‘fill the bases,’ but not ‘load the case.’

Google Ngram shows an undulant usage pattern of ‘load the case’ peaking in circa 1940.

What does ‘load the case’ mean in the above sentence?

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The Ngram chart is very blocky; the lack of smooth curves suggests it's not a very common phrase, as does the abundance of leading zeroes in the percentages on the y-axis. –  Hugo Dec 18 '11 at 14:18

2 Answers 2

On the face of it, the question "Have they loaded the case?" means "Have they unfairly overstated the issues?", "they" being Cody and Reitman, writer and director of the film. However, the review is rather muddled, and that question probably is not what reviewer Denby really meant to ask, which most probably is "Have they held the audience?".

For example, the sentences before "Have they loaded the case?" describe the film's themes using negative words like alienation, depression, condescending, blight, stupefaction, and the sentences after it say that almost all the people of the film are uncaring, with the implication that the audience will not find the material of interest.

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Earlier in the review the writer describes the film as:

a piece of Hollywood hipster social criticism … driven by … a vivid loathing of American mediocrity.

The case the film is stating, therefore – the argument it is making – is that America is mediocre.

To load can mean to bias; one may talk of loaded dice or loaded questions.

So in asking “Have they loaded the case?” the reviewer is wondering whether the writer and director, by filling the film with seemingly indifferent and uncaring characters, have presented an unfair picture in order to support their downbeat viewpoint.

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+1 correct analysis. –  Kris Dec 19 '11 at 6:19
    
+1 this is definitely how I interpret the phrase. –  slim Dec 19 '11 at 11:44

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