Young Adult

Young Adult

****1/2

Reviewed by: Donald Munro

Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a thirtysomething writer of young adult fiction. Her life is a mess. Her publisher is chasing her over an unfinished book, she is recently divorced and she is an alcoholic. Into the chaos comes an email from her high school ex Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). He and his wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser) are announcing the birth of their first child. This sends Mavis careering on a self-destructive mission to steal back her former lover.

On returning to her home town of Mercury, she runs into someone she ignored at school, Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt). While still at school Matt was crippled in a violent homophobic attack. This was big news at the time until it was discovered that Matt was not actually gay, he was just some fat kid who was beaten to within an inch of his life.

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Mavis and Matt circle each other. Matt is sexually drawn towards her while she uses him as a sounding board and an excuse to drink. The pair have, in their own ways, both been crippled by their experiences at high school. Matt has his obvious physical injuries and Mavis is left narcissistic and shallow, only understanding her self-worth in terms of her looks, her clothes and who she has sex with. In her alcohol-soaked, furious pursuit of Buddy she reinterprets her adolescent years through the main character in the book she is writing.

The script by Diablo Cody is a real gem, painful and darkly funny throughout. The character of Mavis is richly drawn. She is someone you really feel for despite the vile aspects of the character and her problematic behaviour. On top of Cody's superb script what really make Young Adult are the performances by Theron and Oswalt. Mavis' car crash life is played to perfection by Theron - her vanity and indifference to others and her alcoholism. Oswalt balances Matt's sexual attraction to Mavis, his inability to do anything about his feelings and his concern for Mavis' wellbeing with a resentment of being used by her.

In addition, the film is sometimes visually striking - the inner workings of an old cassette player form the title sequence; Mavis is covered in red wine at the Slades' baby shower; and then there's a last scene with her and Mattt.

Young Adult paints a bitterly comic picture of the physical and mental scars left by high school and the of disintegration of Mavis' life. Never once is this a film that invites boredom as Mavis teeters on the edge, always in danger of falling.

Reviewed on: 04 Feb 2012
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Soon after her divorce, a fiction writer returns to her home in small-town Minnesota, looking to rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend, who is now happily married and has a newborn daughter.
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BIFF 2012

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