Young Adult

5 Sep


Director: Jason Reitman

Writer: Diablo Cody

Stars: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson and Patton Oswalt

Motion Picture Rating: 15

Runtime: 94 minutes



I can honestly say that I haven’t seen any fictional character on film, certainly not the lead character, like Mavis Gary. She is such an uncomfortable and unlovable character to watch. Why Diablo Cody (writer) and Jason Reitman (director), previous collaborators on Juno, brought her into this world I am unsure. Mavis is self-obsessed, immature, highly dramatic, completely lacking in empathy and a fantasist. A fifteen year old girl might be given some leeway for these personality disorders, but Mavis is 37.

Mavis Gary, played to perfection by an unblinking Charlize Theron, and completely trouncing Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher, is the high school mean girl that never grew up. This former prom queen failed to move on from her glory days and is returning to her small town to win back her high school jock boyfriend. That he is married with a new born baby is beside the point. As Mavis sees it, the small town and small family lifestyle must be like “living as a hostage”.

Whilst back in town Mavis starts up an odd friendship with Matt Freehauf (the splendid Patton Oswalt), another ex-high school peer. Matt, labelling himself a “fat geek”, has also struggled to move on, but his issues are rather more substantial in that he was crippled at high school by rampaging jocks – ironically in the same woods where Mavis regularly entertained the boys. Mavis and Matt form an unlikely alliance and it’s their relationship that is the best of this film. This is bold story-telling with Cody and Reitman cleverly showing us just how sad, lonely and angry the high school prom queens and tubby geeks can be 20 years after graduation.

There are no big laughs in this movie and the dialogue is less sassy than in Juno. Mavis Gary is a deeply troubled character and her journey home is awkward and sad. There is humour, but it is very dark. At the same time Mavis and Matt share some great scenes and there is something very real about them that demand your attention. How and why this film got made, by a big studio like Paramount, I have no idea but I am glad that it did. Many will see few redeeming qualities in Mavis or the film, but I applaud the film-makers and Theron for being so mean and so dark.

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