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Without an iota of irony, Charlize Theron finally uses her intimidating
beauty for pure Machiavellian evil, and the results are fortuitous in
this dark-hued 2011 comedy, the latest collaboration of director Jason
Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody ("Juno"). She's absolutely spot-on
terrific playing Mavis Gary, the condescending, hateful high school
girl who comes back to Mercury, her podunk hometown nearly two decades
later. Mavis is no Blanche Dubois-type character whose ladylike beauty
has faded into a gauzy romantic delusion. No, Mavis is still one hot
babe and very much the complete narcissist she was as a teenager,
emotionally stunted despite her relative worldliness having moved to
Minneapolis to become a ghostwriter of a series of teen novels.
It's not surprising she finds success writing for an adolescent audience since she still defines her life with teenage-level priorities and fantasies. As she has proved with "Juno", Cody is thoroughly fluent with this perspective, but the twist is that this time, it's coming from a jaded 37-year-old woman. Even though Mavis is a divorcée who lives in a high-rise apartment with a toy dog and can easily get any man she wants, she is triggered by a birth announcement email she receives from her high school sweetheart Buddy Slade and becomes fixated on getting him back all these years later. It doesn't matter that he's happily married and perfectly content living in Mercury. She concocts a scheme to make herself so alluring that he will want to run away with her. Normally, this would be an excuse for broad comedy machinations, but Theron is so gorgeous that it makes her shameless attempts at seduction all the more edgily desperate.
It's a narrowly developed plot for sure, but surprisingly, what enriches the proceedings is the unexpected relationship Mavis develops with Matt Freehauf, a sad-sack former classmate whose sole claim to notoriety was being the victim of a hate crime when he was beaten up and left for dead by a group of jocks who assumed he was gay. He has been left crippled, living in Mercury with his sister making his own home-brewed bourbon and putting together mix-and-match action figures. That Mavis and Matt connect is all the more intriguing since they were at opposite ends of the social spectrum back in school, and their present-day bond is also fueled by her obvious alcoholism, a point that is overlooked by her befuddled parents who wish to think of Mavis as the flawless pretty daughter of their own deluded fantasies. The story evolves in the direction you would expect but not before certain revelations come to light in a tortuous scene at the baby-naming party Buddy and his sensible wife Beth have with all their relatives and close friends in attendance.
Beyond Theron's fearless work and intentionally deadpan line delivery, there is comedian Patton Oswalt's surprisingly affecting performance as Matt. I only know him from his recurring role as a comical sad-sack on the sitcom "King of Queens", so it's surprising to see the amount of texture he brings to this role. As Buddy, Patrick Wilson once again plays the sought-after himbo, but this time, his character's unshaven, small-town modesty comes across as more contrite with his character's feelings toward Mavis left quite elliptical. Elizabeth Reaser ("Sweet Land") isn't given that much to do as Beth, probably by intention, but Collette Wolf has a few impactful moments as Matt's insulated sister still idolizing Mavis after all these years. As he showed with "Juno" and "Up in the Air", Reitman shows a deft hand with actors playing flawed characters who try to manipulate their circumstances but fall short of their vaunted expectations.
Greetings again from the darkness. Writer Diablo Cody and Director
Jason Reitman reunite for the first time since their breakout hit
"Juno". In that fine film, we were treated to many optimistic and
sarcastic life lessons from a very likable, and easy to cheer for,
teenage girl. This time around we get the caustic, childlike
self-centeredness of a mid-30's alcoholic sadly trying to recapture the
magic of her high school years as the prom queen dating the coolest
Ms. Cody and Mr. Reitman deserve much credit for steering clear of the Hollywood traditions of redemption, remorse, and turning over a new leaf. In fact, we probably dislike Mavis (Charlize Theron) even more as the movie ends than we did in the film's first 5 minutes, if that's even possible. It takes courage as a filmmaker to have a lead character who is disliked through the entire movie, not just by the people in her life, but also by the audience. It also takes a special actress to pull this off. If you saw Theron in her Oscar winning role in "Monster", believe me when I say that she is equally unsympathetic here ... though she does commit fewer actual crimes.
This film is erroneously marketed as a smart comedy. While there are some funny elements, it's difficult to find much humor in someone who is so unstable and narcissistic. Wisely, the script provides us with Matt (Patton Oswalt) as the voice of reason. He sees through the Mavis mask and speaks directly in his attempts to divert her from her plan. That plan is to break up the marriage of her high school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson). Oh yeah, he just happens to be happily married (Elizabeth Reaser) with a newborn baby.
The best scenes of the film are between Mavis and Matt. She is oblivious to her negative effect on others, while he shoots her straight while avoiding his own harsh reality. See, Matt was the victim of a vicious hate crime, which left his leg (and other things) mangled. His own view of life is why he can see right through Mavis and her issues. While I so admire the basis of the script, I just believe there is a missing element. The element of hope and optimism. Heck, even when Mavis admits she "might be an alcoholic", her parents shrug it off and change topics. Sometimes crying out for help just isn't enough.
The film is worth seeing for the performances of Theron and Oswalt, as well as for the unique script. Just don't get tricked into believing it's some laugh riot with a fairy tale ending. Mavis is a ghost writer for teen novels, and she writes the latest as she lives this nightmare of a trip back home. My only real question ... is she mature enough to write for teens?
This film is highly recommended.
Finally a holiday movie comes along that dares to ask, " Can a high school prom queen steal her happily married ex-boyfriend from his wife and newborn child and find true love? " From the team that brought us the classic comedy, Juno, comes the wickedly entertaining, and to some, offensive Young Adult.
Directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody, this dark comedy explores the aspirations of a beautiful, vain, and selfish woman as she schemes to breakup a marriage and reclaim her former sweetheart, Buddy. Now divorced, Mavis Gary ( Charlize Theron ), a ghostwriter of teen literature conveniently found in the YA section of bookstores everywhere, has never grown up and never had the life she felt destined to have. ( After all, she was voted Best Hair in her high school yearbook! ) Her life is in ruins, an eternal victim of herself. She decides to return to her small hometown hoping to snare her former sweetheart ( nicely downplayed by Patrick Wilson ) and with that in mind, live some of the glories of her past life. As Mavis mentions in one scene, "Love conquers all. "Haven't you seen The Graduate? " She lives in a fantasy world, clouded by booze.
Giving her a reality check about her plans is a dweeb from the past, Matt Freehauf ( Patton Oswalt ), whom Mavis meets at a local bar. She doesn't so much rekindle their friendship as she never had time for him before, just not in her league back then. "Oh, you're that hate crime guy," she says when they meet. Insensitive, yes. That's Mavis, and yes, Matt was permanently injured in a gay hate crime during his senior year, although he wasn't gay at all. Shades of irony! ( Not that there's anything wrong with that, yada, yada!) Alcohol (and there's plenty in use when Mavis is around ) brings these two lost souls together, that and Mavis' far- fetched dreaming.
Theron has the difficult role of making such a repulsive and mean-spirited woman, if not likable, at least, tolerable. She never tries to ingratiate herself. Instead, she depicts a mean girl caught in the throngs of arrested development and expects the movie audience to deal with it. Her acting choices work beautifully inside and out. Theron uses her expressive beauty and sexual allure to hide Mavis' twisted and unpleasant traits. Hopefully, this honest and compelling performance won't turn off Academy voters due to its nasty portrayal of its anti-heroine. It's a wonderful job of acting.
Oswalt gives a fully dimensional comic portrait of a small town loser type with bigger dreams. He's living with his sister. He's alone. He's Mavis' conscience and he's working overtime. He's the voice of reason ( and the sensible voice of the movie audience as well. ). Oswalt plays his character as an endearing slug, a man-child full of sage advice and bitter disappointment. It is a finely honed comic performance.
Cleverly scripted, Young Adult is filled with smart one-liners that advance the action and are keeping with their flawed characters. Yet the film carries with it a more serious tone, not the laugh-a-minute movie one would suspect from the trailer. The characters and their situations verge on the real with the comically surreal. In an uncomfortable but pivotal scene, Mavis addresses Buddy's married life with consoling words and advice that " we can beat this thing together" and leave his KenTacoHut world behind. Cody's sharply observed and cynical view of small town life is imbued in her characters and may be distasteful to some moviegoers, although I found this film quite amusing and droll. The only objection to the film was in two of the film's final scenes ( which were effectively done but inaccurate to the characters' true motivations and actions).
Reitman is again drawn to damaged characters in his leading roles as he had successfully done with films like Juno and Up in the Air. He is relentless in his ability to make such complicated people completely fascinating as they free fall into despair. He makes their journey filled with ironic and satirical possibilities, making the negative positively comic in tone.
Young Adult resists the sweet rosy side of life. It humorously embraces the sad fatalistic notion of our everyday existence, supplanting upbeat and unattainable desires with a refreshingly downbeat sensibility. And that's seems very grown-up to me. GRADE: B+
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When Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody struck gold with "Juno" in 2007,
they did so with a rare combination of contemporary wit, quirkiness and
heart. Their four-year reunion in "Young Adult" won't be nearly as
heralded, but it might arguably be a better film.
Although ironic when juxtaposed with its main character, a 37-year-old who hasn't gotten over her high school sweetheart, Reitman and Cody display obvious evidence of maturation. The subject and humor are decidedly darker, and the emotional energy more raw and challenging.
Charlize Theron stars as Mavis Gary, perhaps one of film's most hopelessly pathetic protagonists. Before giving the opening credit sequence its cue, Reitman puts Theron to work and paints a clear picture of spiraling drunken loneliness, reality TV and apathy toward responsibility. Appropriately, she's a young-adult fiction writer for a dwindling book series who's also a former prom queen. Theron is perfect for the role with her combination of in- concealable beauty and dramatic prowess. Mavis never becomes a caricature under her watch.
Unable to get past the fact that her high school boyfriend Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) just had a baby, Mavis flees her depressing cyclical lifestyle in Minneapolis for her home town of Mercury, Minn. with the intention of winning him back.
Mavis' delusional and deceitful quest to be a home-wrecker proves maddening through much of the film at the slow-burn pace Reitman has dictated, and it becomes obvious that at some point the bubble on her misguided journey will burst into an ugly mess. Yet despite this foreseeable direction, the climax proves stirring and not without a set of surprises.
Adding to the complexity of Mavis reclaiming her past is Matt (Patton Oswalt), a former classmate she barely noticed because they were miles apart on the social spectrum. The two bond over their appreciation for (or dependency on) bourbon, and their relationship allows Theron's character a chance to blow off steam, albeit irresponsibly.
Mavis eventually remembers Matt as the "hate crime kid" because he was brutally beaten to the point of being disabled in high school at the hands of some jocks who thought he was gay. He serves as a strong comparison point for Mavis' high school experience throughout the film. Oswalt's wit also matches well with Cody's style and Matt actually turns into one of the better depictions of a disabled character probably ever. Other than the incident that caused it, we're not asked to sympathize excessively with his condition, nor do Mavis' snarky remarks about it come across as rude.
Cody's dialogue is much more restrained this time around; "Juno" is eons funnier as a result, but the sacrifice of laughs allows us to focus on the film as a character study of a woman who hasn't quite learned how to be an adult. The script's only deficiency comes from a crater- sized hole in Mavis' history. "Young Adult" deserves praise for being a film about living in the past that contains not a single flashback, but knowing more about Mavis' divorce and how she came to break up with Buddy the first time could have significantly informed the story, especially as to why Mavis willfully lives her life as the trainwreck it clearly is.
The film's climax helps a bit in this regard, and Mavis' epiphany avoids being cliché despite the obvious "appreciate what you have" motif. Part of the message oddly suggests that small- town folks lead purposeless lives for the sake of achieving some kind of blissful stasis, but at the same time the idea that all of us are broken people that need to affirm and trudge forward not backward with our various blemishes, will surely resonate.
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Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody have been kind of hit or miss for me or
at least that's what I like to think. I didn't enjoy Juno nearly as
much as everyone else seemed to while Jennifer's Body, while not great,
may have been better received on my end than what most give it credit
for mostly because I have such a soft spot for horror. On the other
hand though, Up in the Air was fairly fantastic all around. With that
said, the main thing attracting me to Young Adult was the fact that
Patton Oswalt had a rather big supporting role. Despite the fact that
Charlize Theron has done so many things since and has won an Oscar,
films like The Astronaut's Wife and The Devil's Advocate only come to
mind whenever she's featured in anything which isn't flattering at all.
So there was kind of this sense of dread going into Young Adult, but
was it justified? The short answer is no, but it doesn't completely
blow you away either.
There was an Entertainment Weekly article a few weeks ago where Theron said she aimed to not only be a mean-spirited individual, but also easily relatable as well. That's the trickiest part with a character like this. Anyone can be cold or act black hearted, but doing that while also displaying qualities that make you feel sorry for them and/or feel like something you went through in your life is something special. Imagining anyone else in this role is practically impossible, as well. The entire premise seems to be built around Theron. She seems to be playing herself or at least a slightly exaggerated version of how she is in real life. That more than likely contributes to the movie working as well as it does.
One of the other great things about the movie is that it's mostly unexpected. Young adult fiction writer Mavis Gary (Theron) currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota but decides to return to her small hometown of Mercury after receiving an email from her high school boyfriend Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) welcoming his first child into the world. Mavis somehow thinks that her and Buddy are meant to be together and despite Buddy being happily married and having a daughter that he loves dearly, Mavis thinks they can work past that to make things right between them. The outcome of the events is probably pretty predictable, but the relationships in between unfold in a way that you probably don't see coming. I'm mostly referring to Mavis and Matt Freehauf's (Patton Oswalt) friendship as it goes in a direction that feels far too human for such a superficial individual like Mavis. Oswalt also seems to be playing an exaggerated version of himself as well as he makes full use of his geekiness. The Pixies shirt was also a nice touch. But Young Adult is mostly entertaining due to the way it feels genuine despite revolving around somebody who is as harsh and selfish as Mavis Gray is.
Young Adult is very dark and downright bleak at times, but that's one of its most distinguishing traits. You'll more than likely find something to relate to in Mavis Gray whether it was you who was the popular kid in school, are just as depressed as she is, think you may be an alcoholic, or you're a writer, Mavis isn't really in the right frame of mind and maybe that's the most relatable part of her character. Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt share a kind of twisted chemistry that involves some fairly witty dialogue at times, but is mostly them dragging the other one through the mud with their words, which strangely only illustrates how miserable and similar their two characters are. Young Adult is a very fascinating dark comedy that is laugh out loud funny at times due to its cruelness, but shines thanks to its authenticity.
This is one of those films you read about and really look forward to;
but, once seen, you realize that, while good, it's not quite worthy of
the build up.
Charlize Theron is quite good and makes the most of the script she has to work with. As always, hers eyes, facial expression and body language all help her bring life to the role.
Patton Oswalt also does a star turn as a bit of conscience for Charlize's character.
The story is well told, albeit a bit of a stretch. For someone reaching back to her past for a lost love, Charlize's character is quite believable; it's her long ago beau, Patrick Wilson, that's not quite up to snuff. Given that these two play off each other for a great deal of the film, it would be nicer to have had a better performer opposite her.
That said, it's worth watching, though probably a bit depressing for many viewers.
If nothing else, 'Young Adult' is a breath of fresh air. Written by
Juno creator Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, YA is like a
distant sequel - if Juno had moved to the city, got married and
divorced and started drinking. 'Young Adult' is darkly funny,
confronting, a bit depressing at times and has a refreshing sense of
realism. It's not afraid to show broken characters battling their own
demons and the mundane and sometimes bleak suburban existence.
Charlize Theron played Mavis, a relatively successful teen fiction author in Minneapolis who's reached a crossroads. Recently divorced and struggling to write her latest novel, she receives an email from her high school flame Buddy (Patrick Wilson) announcing his new baby. Mavis convinces herself that Buddy still loves her - despite being happily married to Beth (Elizabeth Reaser) and goes back to Minnesota to win him back. Along the way she meets Matt (Patton Oswalt), a short, fat, reclusive man still emotionally and physically scarred by a hate crime in high school, who was all but ignored by the younger Mavis despite being locker-mates. Despite her intentions for Buddy, Mavis and Matt bond.
The unlikely relationship between Mavis and Matt is, for me, is the highlight of the movie: Matt sees through Mavis' charade and isn't afraid to let her know about it, being downright rude at times, he's not the "Mr. Nice Guy" you may expect. The chemistry between Theron and Oswalt is brilliant. While they may be worlds apart socially and physically, their relationship is believable. After "uglying herself up" for 'Monster', Theron again eschews her glamorous image for the sake of a role. While Mavis is undoubtedly beautiful, she's clearly damaged and lonely, clinging onto an imagined ideal of happiness and completely ignoring reality. Her obsession with Buddy is demonstrated on her drive to Minnesota: playing an old mix tape in her car, she repeatedly plays the song that she and Buddy first made love to.
While 'Young Adult' may be a shock to some, that's what makes it so good. In a climate littered with clichéd, paint-by-numbers rom-coms with nauseatingly happy endings, its refreshing to see a movie which tackles the darker side of life.
Young Adult is a very un-Hollywood comedy and a good thing it is too. I
won't detail the plot as you can read this elsewhere but just to say
that the writing is sharp and intelligent, the comedy nice and dark,
the direction unfussy (so you don't notice it) and the running time
just long enough so the movie doesn't run out of steam. There is no
cute fluffiness (is that a word?) in this movie.
Charlize Theron is quite brilliant (as she usually is) playing a very self centred character who is borderline stalker. Co-star Patton Oswalt is very good as the guy who had a bad break when younger who has had to learn to live with the life changing consequences. The rest of the supporting cast are great playing a mix of small town America characters.
I seem to have a habit of watching movies in packed cinemas, no exception here as it was almost standing room only. This always helps with a comedy because once the laughing starts it spreads and continues throughout the whole movie. Highly recommended.
Young Adult is Diablo Cody's latest utterly refreshing attempt on the
life of a once-famous high school queen who was facing challenges in
her life. The renowned writer of Juno is making a entirely different
attempt here by depicting a mid-life crisis of Mavis Gary (Charlize
Theron) and her return visit to her hometown where she lived when she
was a teenager.
Mavis hated the town, hated everything about it, hated all the people in it, that was, except Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), who used to be her boyfriend. It didn't take her long to decide that she would return and rescue Buddy who she thought was a hostage in the deadly town with his marriage and newborn daughter. She would save herself from the disappointment from her life, save Buddy from the living hell, and picked up where things ended, once and for all.
And well, you expected it. Things were not as simple as that; they never are. So get ready for the adventure in this visit and get ready to know our Mavis better.
Charlize Theron totally manipulated the role of Mavis, letting the audience get to know who Mavis Gary really was as the events continued to unfold. It was a solid, realistic and Oscar-worthy performance that blew the audience away.
Young Adult is about life, about the past and the present, about why people are easily stuck in the past and do not see a future ahead of them. This is about why we should accept the present and look forward instead of always looking back. It is also more of a drama than a comedy but still it did give me some laughs.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) makes a living ghostwriting novels geared
towards the tween crowd. They call this Young Adult Fiction YA in
publisher's lingo. The books are part of a series created by another
author. They were at one time incredibly popular. Now, the series has
been cancelled. The book she's currently writing will be the final
installment. Although she gets by financially, she does not live the
glamorous life of a successful author. She lives alone in an unkempt
Minneapolis apartment with her dog, an adorable Pomeranian, who she
carries around yet doesn't seem to love unconditionally. One day, while
rummaging through her e-mails, she comes across one sent by her high
school sweetheart, who still lives in their small hometown, is now
happily married, and has recently had a baby girl.
Mavis decides to return to her hometown and reclaim her lost love. His name is Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). It doesn't matter that he has taken his vows, and it matters even less that he's raising a daughter. She knows he isn't happy. How can anyone be happy living in a small hick town, despite the fact that it has expanded to include a KFC, a Taco Bell, and a Pizza Hut (all put under the same roof)? She understands that he has baggage, but she's willing to work through it with him. This has to work out, because in her mind, they were always meant to be together. Clearly, reality has not caught up with this woman. Emotionally, she was stunted as a teenager; to this day, she wakes up every morning with a hangover. She lives in a fantasy world in which love conquers all, as demonstrated by films like "The Graduate."
Jason Reitman's "Young Adult" was written by Diablo Cody, who, following "Juno" and "Jennifer's Body," shows yet again her affinity for adolescent characters in interesting situations. What makes this particular film noteworthy is that the adolescent is a woman in her thirties. On the basis of her binge drinking and stubborn refusal to let go of the past, Mavis has absolutely no desire to grow up. Hers is a world of impossible ideals. When she finally reunites with Buddy, it's at a Chili's-type restaurant; she would have preferred the bar they used to hang out at, but he's a father now, and he has to be home by a certain time. She makes herself so alluring that she looks strikingly out of place a slinky black dress with a low neckline, fancy jewelry, a neat manicure and pedicure, perfectly applied makeup, an attractive 'do enhanced by a hairpiece.
Buddy seems pleased to see Mavis, although there's no real indication that he's interested in running away with her to the city. He's a simple, small-town guy living a simple, small-town life. He loves his wife, Beth (Elizabeth Reaser), the drummer for a local girl band. He's devoted to his daughter. Why can't Mavis see that he's happy as he is? Keeping tabs over the situation is Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), who not only attended the same high school as Mavis but also had the locker directly next to hers. He now works as an accountant for the restaurant. She doesn't remember him until she sees him walking with a crutch; while still a teenager, he was beaten by gang of bullies who thought he was gay. It was considered a hate crime until he was discovered to be straight. It wasn't a mere schoolyard scuffle. His leg was shattered, and his penis was permanently damaged. He ended up missing six months of school.
Matt is in some ways just as stunted as Mavis. He lives with his sister, and he spends most of his time painting action figures. He brews his own bourbon in his garage, naming the label after the Mos Eisley spaceport in "Star Wars." Back in high school, he was never noticed. He was, to put it bluntly, a short, fat science fiction nerd. Mavis was, of course, hugely popular. That didn't stop guys like Matt from noticing her. Now he's seeing her at her worst. And isn't it funny that she's only noticing him now, when he's far from his best? He's certainly not at his worst; that would have been when he was first beaten. Even then, she never gave much thought to it. When she first speaks with him, she refers to him only as "the hate-crime guy."
One of the interesting things about "Young Adult" is that neither Cody nor Reitman go to great lengths to make Mavis a likable character. We don't especially sympathize with her from the start, and by the end, we've pretty much sided against her completely. We see right through her beauty. We might even take a little pleasure in watching it fade over the course of just a few days. At last, she looks as miserable on the outside as she is on the inside. Who does she think she is, coming into town hoping to destroy a marriage and family? How has she deluded herself into believing that she's trying to do Buddy a favor? The truth is, it has absolutely nothing to do with him. At a certain point, she's just going to have to realize that life doesn't follow the pages of a young adult novel.
-- Chris Pandolfi (www.atatheaternearyou.net)
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