Even popular, shallow, self-loathing, vain, and cruel women have feelings, and Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) wants you to know that. Writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman (the team behind Juno) take you on a spin of emotions in Young Adult, putting their protagonist in the most unlikable position.
We find Mavis awaking to the glorious afternoon sunlight, in last night’s clothes, in a trashed, uptown apartment in Minneapolis, with Keeping up with The Kardashians playing in the background, and a fluffy Pomeranian that she disregards. As she awakes, she takes her nutritious meal of the day, a three-liter bottle of Coca-Cola. She is the stereotypical city girl: she looks and acts like shit.
As her day continues, Mavis is distracted by an email from her high school sweetheart, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). We discover that Buddy is now married, recently had a child, and is inviting everyone from their small town in Minnesota to attend the baby naming.
Instead of taking this as a simple invite, Mavis immediately calls her friend to rationalize this email. Without delay, Mavis concludes that Buddy is miserable, trapped in a domestic life he didn’t want and sent her the invite so that she can come save him. Just like that, she’s in her Mini Cooper traveling home to save Buddy.
Within this incredibly thin plot, we learn Mavis peaked in high school and is in a time warp illusion, disregarding the sad facts about her life: she’s in her mid-30s, has awful skin, and pulls her hair out compulsively. She believes she’s still the most popular girl around and everyone adores her. Clearly, only bad things will come from these delusions, setting up Mavis for her own destruction and hard awakening.
In an odd way, this film gives a viewer the pleasure and relief to know that the bitch from every high school is miserable, despite how far she got from home.
Cody and Reitman clearly thought out everything to perfectly convey Mavis. From her outfits, her car, and her ever-changing manicures, to how she thinks, what she says, and what she writes, Mavis is the perfect egotistic character.
However, I would have never guessed this was a Cody/Reitman combination. I expected Young Adult to be filled with an overload of punch lines from Cody and quick scene cuts from Reitman. Instead, the film dragged on a vapid plot and it didn’t help that the first ten minutes didn’t have background music or spoken lines besides a Kardashian rerun playing in the background. Also, the fact that Mavis’ Mini Cooper has a tape player is simply unbelievable.
The acting saved the film. The interactions between the characters are scarily realistic and humorous. Of course, Theron was amazing, and truly stuck with her character but the small roles stole the screen. I wasn’t truly captivated until the end, when Mavis has a breakdown in front of all the people from her past. The wonderful Patton Oswalt played Matt, the “hate-crime-guy” from high school, who isn’t actually gay, just an overweight guy who walks with a cane, pees sideways, and is interested in action figures. And Collette Wolfe (who played Sandra, Matt’s younger sister) has the perfect doe-eyed face that conveys total trust in her on-screen brother.
This is a must for indie film lovers, but it definitely requires a viewer who will take the time to take in what they’re watching, rather than someone who will view it and dump it. The movie does have its high comedic points, but it’s a surprisingly dark film that gives hope for us all when we think of running into the girl we hated in high school.