Written by Diablo Cody
Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt and Patrick Wilson
Buddy Slade: Mavis, I’m a married man.
Mavis Gary: I know. We can beat this thing together.
Mavis Gary (the always stunning, Charlize Theron) wakes up, it would seem, most days face down in her pillow, still wearing her makeup and heels from the previous night of debauchery. When she comes to, she immediately reaches for the nearest 2L bottle of Diet Coke she can find to give her the jolt she needs to get on with her day. After high school, she promptly exited her hick town, Mercury, in favor or the mini-apple, Minneapolis, to pursue a once thriving career in ghost writing young adult fiction. At 37 years old, Mavis is hardly young like the characters she writes about and knows best but after spending five minutes with her in Jason Reitman’s latest film, YOUNG ADULT, you’ll see that calling her adult is sometimes an even bigger stretch.
If you pointed out what a mess she was, I seriously doubt Mavis would know what you were talking about. Actually, given the amount of attitude she usually carries in her demeanor, I’m thinking she would probably punch you in the face for the suggestion. As constructed by Diablo Cody, who last collaborated with Reitman on the contemporary classic, JUNO, Mavis is quite simply unlikable and Theron is perfectly cast in the part. She is strikingly beautiful and therefore has always had an easy time getting what she wants but despite her soft features, she is about as callous as they come. Theron is unapologetic as Mavis, determined in her resolve no matter how misguided it is and no matter whom she takes down along the way. Yet she still reveals enough of that once young adult inside of her to give the audience some insight into how she came to be this person.
Compared to past Reitman films, like UP IN THE AIR and THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, YOUNG ADULT is by far his prickliest pear. It’s humour is decidedly darker in tone and it isn’t easy to forgive his heroine her actions, regardless what damage inspired them. Mavis returns home under the guise of a real estate transaction to essentially “save” her college boyfriend (Patrick Wilson) from his supposed death trap of a marriage despite his first child just being born. (In fact, the baby is the catalyst for her decision.) In doing so, the high school prom queen befriends the hapless high school loser (an endearing and impressive, Patton Oswalt) and the two form an unlikely friendship that holds a mirror up to both of their issues. Their chemistry is so unexpected and natural that it gives YOUNG ADULT exactly what it needs to mature into the film it was always meant to be - a modern exploration of how growing up can be a lifelong process.