Young Adult

Mavis Gary, played by Charlize Theron, is a former high school over-achiever, who at thirty seven finds herself divorced, alone and the ghost author of a schlocky young adult romance series that had been popular a few years earlier but was now being wrapped up.   Seeking to recapture a taste of her glory days she returns to her rural Minnesota home town to reconnect with her old boyfriend, Buddy Slade, played by Patrick Wilson.  The fact that Buddy is married with children barely registers with the self-absorbed Mavis.  In her mind it is still high school and she’s still the prom queen and her bad marriage and disappointing writing career haven’t happened yet.  Once in town she meets Matt Freehauf, played by Patton Oswalt.  Matt was so far down the social ladder from Mavis, she doesn’t remember him even though their lockers were side by side for four years.  Matt serves as Mavis’s sounding board and unheard conscience as she puts her master plan into action.

Young Adult is written by Diablo Cody and directed by Ivan Reitman, the team that produced Juno.  What they’ve come up with this time is a dark comedy that nudges you out of your comfort zone.  After you realize Mavis’s capacity for self-deception, you know you’re watching a train wreck and the only suspense is how bad it will be.  The narrative trick that the filmmakers and Theron have achieved is that they’ve created a character with whom you sympathize, even though you don’t particularly like her.  Nobody should have to go through this.

Cody’s script, even though it lacks the verbal fireworks of Juno, is a key element to this accomplishment.  She has a wicked eye for details, identifying all the little things that can make life so frustrating, like how color print cartridges that you’ve paid thirty dollars for and have only used once dry up when you need them leaving you with pinkish stripes that are barely recognizable as a photo.  Or she shows how Mavis puts so much effort into her exterior: manicures, pedicures and tons of make-up without it occurring to her that it’s her interior that needs attention.

But of course the problem is that it is still a trick.  In the end you don’t like Mavis, even if you sort of sympathize with her.   If confronted with her in real life, at most you would say, “you really should talk to someone,” and that would be the extent of your willingness to help.  At the movie’s ambiguous finale I didn’t wonder if she was going to turn her life around, I just wanted her to live it far away from me.

Young Adult is a nifty accomplishment but not an emotionally moving film.


0 Responses to “Young Adult”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

December 2011
« Nov   Jan »

Recent Comments

theotherebert on Black Panther
Mark Anderson on Black Panther
Chuck Ebert on Roman J. Israel, ESQ
Mark Anderson on Roman J. Israel, ESQ
Thomas Van Horne on Spider-Man: Homecoming

Blog Stats

  • 35,975 hits

%d bloggers like this: