We’re all sadistic freaks who love nothing more than attending our high school reunions to see who made it and who didn’t (more so of the latter). But what about those who sit somewhere in the middle? Someone like Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) in the black comedy ‘Young Adult’ - the follow up collaboration by screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman to their Oscar winning indy hit ‘Juno’.
Since high school, Mavis has moved from small town Mercury, Minnesota to the glittering big city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. There she spends her nights in the company of anything that comes in a bottle or a shot glass and anyone that will leave first thing in the morning. During the day she has a rigorous workout routine of Wii-Fit, drinks gallons of Diet Coke and is the ghost writer of a YA or Young Adult series, in an ‘all the work, none of the credit’ kind of deal. There, she spawns adolescent dialogue - page after page that unfortunately transfers into her real life.
'Peaked in high school' Mavis decides to turn back the clock, head home and reclaim what she feels in rightfully hers - Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), former jock, former boyfriend, current father to the baby Mavis has returned home to "celebrate" the birth of. On the way to her goal after she disdainfully drives into her home town past the long string of fast food eateries, she picks up Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt) or as she originally knew him back in the day, the “Hate Crime Guy”. Matt becomes Mavis’ confidant, only friend and angel on her shoulder. This unexpected and serendipitous pairing is brilliant, with both talented actors ribbing off each other like the pros that they are. These “twisted soulmates” (as another review describes them) are going to go down as one of the greats in film history. Theron’s looks also play well to her advantage, with her beauty brilliantly juxtaposed but her character’s inner ugliness.
The wit of Cody’s screenwriting that we're used to is missing, but it doesn’t necessarily give the film a disadvantage. The film still displays elements of smarts, sass and wicked humour, all contained within bitter, lonely characters we’d rather die than become.
Oswalt and Theron deliver stellar performances worthy of the accolades and award nominations they’ve been receiving lately. While this film falls short of the genius of Cody and Reitman’s ‘Juno’, it still has that “something” even if it comes as frightening recognition of oneself in Mavis.