Fast-food, Diet Coke, the Kardashians, and writing novels for little shits to swoon over.
Charlize Theron stars an alcoholic writer of young adult novels who decides to return to her small-town in Minnesota to win back her high-school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson), a now happily married husband and father. This eventually leads her to another high-school classmate played by Patton Oswalt and a whole bunch of troubles.
Director Jason Reitman is a dude who’s films I can’t really get into all that much, even though he doesn’t really have a style to declare his “own”. However, this is probably my favorite of the 4 that he has done, and I can easily say that I think I can get into this guy.
Being the fact that this is written by Diablo Cody, I was expecting for this to be one of those snarky and annoying teen-lingo scripts that would just use cool and hip phrases of the time, rather than give me an actual story. However, Cody is showing some real transition as a writer as she gets by with a real character and some real situations that may actually seem too realistic for some people to get by. There are moments where the film lingers on some terribly uncomfortable dark comedy but Cody actually shows that she can be funny in scenes that should be a lot more serious. I liked this about Cody but when it comes to the actual story itself, she does an even better job.
The one thing about this story is that the whole time I just felt this under-breathing sadness. I never could fully put my finger on just what it was but for some reason, I caught this sad feeling that just stayed with me for the entire film until it actually showed up right in front of my face, and then I realized that this is a sad story after all. The main reason why this story is so sad is because Mavis Gary is a terribly unlikable character that is just very upset deep down inside and I felt like she was going to meltdown any second.
Take it for granted. Mavis is not a likable person: she drinks too much, is self-absorbed, doesn’t live in reality, and more or less lives her life without any consequences on any of the terrible and mean things she does and call me crazy, but I liked her a lot. Cody does a great job of creating this rich character that is a total bitch who you think you’d never ever root behind but as soon as the film starts to gear towards the end, you start to feel like you may actually like this chick, as did I. Mavis never apologizes for anything of the things she does and she never learns from her mistakes, which I think is a real big step for a Hollywood film to adventure towards considering its so hard to pull off in today’s world of cinema where every character is mean in the beginning, but soon has some epiphany by the end and we’re forced to believe it.
Mavis is also not just a bitch, but also a character that I could really feel for. She doesn’t understand that she’s an adult with a child’s brain that still wants to be able to do the things she used to do, even if that may mean that others don’t accept it either. Let’s not also forget to mention that she has no friends and she just sort of goes on about her days trying to write this really crappy final book for a teen series, or trying her hardest to win over her high-school sweetheart. Mavis had me wondering just what is really wrong with her until the end where we see these three scenes in a row where she not only totally breaks-down but reveals a lot about herself that made me almost want to just give her a hug. She may be a terrible person at heart, but deep-down inside there is a sad and lonely soul somewhere to be found and that’s where I think I connected not only with this film, but also with this character.
This is where Reitman comes in and shows his talents as a director. Reitman has a perfect balance of uncomfortable dark comedy to where you laugh a lot but also feel a lot to the point as to where you actually start to feel bad for laughing at these characters the whole time. I do think that the film should have definitely been a lot longer just for there to be more depth and give this story to breath but I still do think having it clock in at 94 minutes, keeps this film short, sweet (or rotten for that matter), and straight to the point.
If there was one problem that I had most with this film was the fact that there is a constant connection between Mavis’ life and her story that she’s writing. This seemed a bit obvious considering that the first time we actually see her start writing things down, is when she’s actually talking about her life and it’s nothing new that hasn’t already been done in films before, but hey, it can be forgiven because at least Cody wasn’t trying to bring in sayings that I used in AIM 9 years ago in as well.
It’s hard to believe that this is actually Theron’s first ever comedic performance and probably her first ever role where we can’t stand her. Except for maybe ‘Monster’ but she was probably just more scary there. Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary perfectly because she is obviously very attractive but still is a terrible person by the way she acts and just lets loose of the ugliness within her. Theron hits these great moments where she’s just being a total bitch by flirting with her ex-boyfriend right in front of his wife, or by sipping this rare alcohol from her “friend”, or just by simply just acting like she deserves everything in the world because she wrote some cheesy novels made for teen chicks. Mavis is, as I have already mentioned, terribly unlikable which Theron brings out very well but she also makes her character have more heart and get by her being a one-dimensional character. Theron owns here as Mavis and I definitely think she should get nominated.
Patton Oswalt is also an awesome addition here as Matt Freehauf, a guy who can’t seem to get past his high school days either. Oswalt plays this character perfectly with some very funny comments on how ridiculous Mavis is being but at the same time is totally honest with her about her and his own life. He seems like a natural when it comes to the comedy in Cody’s script, but when it comes to the more dramatic moments he is even better and shows us that he has a great balance as an actor. The on-screen pairing of him and Theron is unlikely but also features some of the best moments of the whole film and brought out the most in both of these great stars. I definitely would love if Oswalt got at least a nomination for his performance here.
Patrick Wilson is also just a regular but likable dude as Buddy Slade. Not much else to say really other than this guy is just generally cool and charming.
Consensus: Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman re-team once again for Young Adult and make it not only a funny, if uncomfortable comedy, but also a realistic and slightly moving story anchored by one of Theron’s best performances she’s given in a long time.