Young Adult (2011)

25 Dec

Merry Christmas!  Even with all the family gatherings and craziness of the holiday, I managed to slip away to catch Young Adult.  As much as Diablo Cody’s Juno is a “feel good” movie, this is a movie full of delicious schadenfreude and bitterness.

Charlize Theron is Mavis Gary, alcoholic divorcee Young Adult novelist whose series has recently been cancelled.  Upon receiving an unexpected email from her high school boyfriend’s wife, announcing the birth of their daughter, Mavis is stirred up by the revelation that he was her soulmate.  She packs up and heads back to her childhood town, intent on winning him back.

This film could easily be a garbage romantic comedy of social flubs and missed cues.  Where Diablo Cody went right is making things so serious.  Mavis was the queen of the prom and the high school 20 years ago, and she will not give it up.  But she’s not fooling anyone.  She sees herself as glamorous and sophisticated, but her former classmates sees her how she is– pathetic and fake.

Small town folk aren’t glamorized either.  Diablo Cody acknowledges the trap of a small town, and doesn’t paint it with nostalgia one bit.  It’s completely obvious why Mavis wanted to get the heck out.

Patton Oswalt has a clever, and at times thoughtful, supporting role.  I really liked him in Big Fan, and he does a great job here as well.

Young Adult is artfully laced with bitterness.  Mavis is not a hero- she’s disgusting and crass.  The height of her life was in high school, and she still revels in the perks of her beauty.  The viewer (or me at least) was resentful that she had skills enough to make a enviable career for herself in writing.  The viewer wants her to fall, and fall hard.  She does, and the film doesn’t make efforts to redeem her.  By the end, though, the viewer makes a certain level of peace with her, and can let go of that resentment.

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