(MA) Paramount DVD/BD
Young Adult is a deliciously dark and clever character study starring Charlize Theron as the dysfunctional Mavis Gary, a middle-aged train wreck who, as the title suggests, never really grew up.
Director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) has collaborated with Oscar-winning writer Diablo Cody (Juno) for the second time to produce this drama/comedy.
Living alone, Mavis’ only real interactions are with her pint-sized dog and the characters in her favourite reality television shows. Her problems range from narcissism to alcoholism and she is shown disturbingly plucking the hairs on her head out one by one in a ritualistic manner.
As she struggles to write the last volume of a failing young adult book series as well as deal with a divorce, Mavis decides that as a teenager, she was in her prime and returns home to relive her glory days and win back her high school sweetheart, Patrick Wilson. The only problem is he is happily married with a new baby.
As Mavis crashes toward an inevitable meltdown, she makes an unlikely friend, former classmate (Patton Oswalt) whose high school experience was decidedly different. Crippled from a brutal beating by bullies he still hasn’t recovered physically or mentally and his wry observations and lonely state are the perfect accompaniment to Mavis’s self-centred destructiveness. Being a compulsive liar living in a constant state of denial, Mavis only reveals her true self to him.
Mavis is a devious, extremely unlikable protagonist and as a result Young Adult is largely joyless. However, Charlize Theron’s performance is so spot-on that you may find yourself amazed as you begin to invest in such a despicable, shallow character. Theron’s and Oswalt’s comedic capabilities married with Diablo’s razor sharp script results in plenty of black humour as well as unbearable social tension.
Certainly not for those who favour conventionality, Young Adult is a confident and realistic take on unhappiness. It can be a little slow at times but the relatively short running time helps counteract this.
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