The Gist: The popular but mean girl in school becomes a divorced, alcoholic, ghost writer who returns to her hometown in a last ditch effort to reunite with her ex-boyfriend, who is a happily married new father.
First Impressions: With writer Diablo Cody pairing up again with director Jason Reitman, the result is sure to be witty humor in unusual situations. A realistic cast should help give that small-town feel and prevent the pace from becoming too stagnant.
In spite of its slow pace “Young Adult” covers the depth within a character who appears to only see skin deep.
Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a beautiful, successful writer of a young adult series living in the big city, Minneapolis. Sure, she’s only the ghost writer struggling over the last book as the story declined in popularity, lives alone with her dog, Dolce, and has the maturity level of your average, self-absorbed teenager, but she’s famous (sort of) living the life that others envy. While overcoming a hangover, Mavis receives news from her high school sweetheart, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), whose wife, Beth (Elizabeth Reaser), gave birth to their first child. Thinking this is a plea for her return, Mavis heads back to her boring hometown of Mercury, in an effort to wretch him free from his paternal duties and bland wife. When she arrives, however, she cannot shake her very own Jiminy Cricket, Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), who hasn’t been the same since jocks beat him within an inch from death under the assumption he was gay.
As Theron appears within nearly every shot of the film, she handles her character as a professional, along with director Reitman’s great shot choices and Cody’s writing. Mavis is insecure just as she is vain, each trait coming to life with what the actress does within the frame of the camera. Her lofty but lonely life is depicted on the balcony of her high rise apartment. She sees herself as above others yet her messy abode is testament to the fact that she is only left with her own baggage. The rest of the cast performed well enough, though it was obviously difficult to stand out next to Theron.
A fun though underused soundtrack and musical accompaniments help pick up the pace when it drags though this is a film where the plot deals more with the implied. Minor issues are with the timeline in that this occurs 20 years after the characters graduated high school. It didn’t need to be set around the clichéd 10 year reunion, but as the backstory deals with the high school years, and Buddy and Beth were just having their first child, it seems more fitting to have the characters slightly younger. Also the town of Mercury may have been small but was by no means represented to be “hic” or “redneck” as many of the characters mention.
“Young Adult” is certainly worth a watch as an interesting portrait of a woman unable to fully grow up when facing both her past and future.
One Positive Critique: Cody put her stamp on the film with her hilarious and modern lines. Matt assumes Mavis’s popular books are about vampires. Mavis overhears, then uses in her book, a teenager’s phrase, “textual chemistry” (referring to cell phone texts, not literature). And when asserting to Matt that love conquers all, Mavis says “haven’t you seen ‘The Graduate?’”
Theron shows a bit of her evil side, but you can see her as a full evil queen in “Snow White and the Huntsman” which will play at some of the Best Baltimore theaters including the Rotunda and AMC in White Marsh June 1, 2012.