Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Opens locally Friday, December 16th, 2011
Run Time: 1 hour 34 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser
Written by Diablo Cody (Juno)
Directed by Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking, Juno, Up in the Air)
We have grown used to cheering for anti-heroes on TV and film, from Tony Soprano (The Sopranos), to Vic Mackey (The Shield), to Walter White (Breaking Bad). It’s not too often when we are given a despicable female character to root for.
In Young Adult, Charlize Theron gives an award-worthy turn in such a role. Her Mavis is not a gangster or a drug-dealer, but she’s just as unlikeable as that former prom-queen who never quite moved on past high school. Mavis is miserable even though on the surface she appears to have a lot going for her…she’s an author of a young adult book series now living in the big city. Used to having things go her way, she can’t stop thinking about her ex-boyfriend from high school, Buddy (Patrick Wilson), and decides to return back to her small hometown and “save” him from his horrible life, wife, and kids.
That all sounds good if Buddy’s life was in fact horrible. He’s actually a happily married man, who is excited to see Mavis after all of these years but never suspecting that she is there to win him back. While in town, Mavis meets up with Matt (Patton Oswalt), a former classmate geek who Mavis wouldn’t have given the time of day to back in high school. The prom queen and the Dungeons & Dragons dweeb form an uneasy if unlikely friendship, as Mavis devises a way to earn back Buddy’s love.
Scripted by Diablo Cody, Young Adult is a laugh-out loud film that draws great power from the tremendous performances of both Theron and Oswalt. Cody has a way of writing dialogue that feels young, fresh, and real. In Mavis and Matt, we have two characters that are instantly relatable without ever falling victim to the clichés associated with the popular/unpopular stereotypes. Both of them, in their own way, have a distorted vision of the past and need to move on, and through each other’s eyes can perhaps find solace.
Charlize Theron is deliciously wonderful and over the top, yet is anchored down by the smart script. She is having fun playing the self-entitled bitch, but there are moments peppered throughout where we see tremendous signs of vulnerability and humanity. When she announces to her mom that she is an alcoholic and is literally ignored, we get a glimpse as to how Mavis could feel so alone, clinging to a vision of the past in which she may have felt happy. And Patton Oswalt? He plays the character of Matt as a harmless wise-cracking teddy bear, but gives such depth to the role. It’s no surprise that he’s a front-runner on many year-end award lists for Best Supporting Actor.
Even though I really enjoyed Young Adult, the movie does has imperfections. Buddy must be the dumbest guy in the world, or worse, to not see Mavis’s motives a mile away. The film somehow felt clunky and long despite its 94 minute run time. This is unusual for Jason Reitman, who’s films usually have a sleek, polished feel to them.
In spite of these gripes, Young Adult includes some of the most memorable characters of the year. If you’ve experienced high school and have moved on into the real world, it’s impossible not to relate to the ugly truths that are revealed here...let’s just hope you’re more Matt than Mavis.
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