YOUNG ADULT (2011)
Running Time: 94 mins. Rating: 4 Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser, Collette Wolfe, Jill Eikenberry, Richard Bekins, Mary Beth Hurt, Kate Nowlin, Jenny Dare Paulin, Rebecca Hart
You can think of YOUNG ADULT as what would happen twenty years in the future to any of the shallow high school female clique of the 2004 Lindsay Lohan flick, MEAN GIRLS.
37 year-old Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a former small-town Minnesota high school beauty queen who couldn’t wait to move out to the big city, Minneapolis (“the Mini-Apple” is how it’s often referred to in this film) and become a writer.
She succeeded somewhat as she was the ghost writer of a popular teen novel series, “Waverly Place.” Writing about high school life, which was in fact Mavis’s glory years, has hindered her own development. The title “Young Adult,” refers to where in a bookstore you would find the “Waverly Place” series and to the fact that Mavis is far from an adult of any age. For inspiration, Mavis likes to bring her laptop to fast foods restaurants where she overhears teen conversation and works the dialog into her pages. Her heroine, Kendall, is an extension of herself.
Mavis’s real life is in shambles. “The Waverly Place” line of books is no longer popular and she has no idea where her next paycheck will come from. Ever since her marriage ended in divorce she has trouble getting up in the morning. She guzzles Maker’s Mark whisky the way most of us enjoy a cold bottle of water on a hot humid day.
Her world is rocked when she receives an e-mail from a friend that her high school beau, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson of CBS’s “The Gifted Man”) is a new dad and that he and his wife will be having a naming party ceremony that weekend. Alone and very desperate, Mavis decides to drive up to her hometown of Mercury, Minnesota and not just for an innocuous reunion either.
She has it in her head that Buddy will leave his wife and child once he sees her. “We are destined to be together!” Mavis tells her understandably concerned mom. The fact that Buddy is head over heels in love with his wife and young daughter and makes it clear that he has no desire to revisit the past does not deter her. You can see danger ahead from a mile away. Screenwriter Diablo Cody, best known for her 2007 film, JUNO, thankfully has a few surprises for the audience when the inevitable cringe-inducing big scene takes place.
While in Mercury, Mavis befriends Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt). The short and squat Matt walks with a cane because he was beaten to a pulp by some bullying jocks who nearly left him for dead back in high school. His locker was adjacent to Mavis’s in high school but she never gave him the time of day. “You spent more time staring at your mirror than you ever did saying hello to me,” says Matt matter-of-factly. Surprisingly, the two forge an unlikely friendship in the film, as Matt offers the kind of candid advice and commentary that she doesn’t get from anyone else.
YOUNG ADULT is a terrific film because all of us have met a Mavis somewhere down the line. Charlize Theron has proven in her career to be a fearless actress who not afraid to tackle unlikable roles. She makes Mavis into a believable three-dimensional character whereas many other actresses would have been content to take the easy route and merely play her as a delusional, self-indulgent psycho. Patton Oswalt, who is a top standup comic, proved last year that he could be a dramatic leading man in the very underrated BIG FAN. He shines in this film as well. Director Jason Reitman’s pacing is perfect as her aptly shows that not every aspect of small town America is depicted in a Norman Rockwell painting.
Don’t miss YOUNG ADULT.
If you like this recommendations: Mean Girls, Beautiful Girls, Mr. Destiny