If you thought Charlize Theron was terrifying as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in her Academy Award winning role, then you ain’t seen nothing yet! In the role of Mavis, Theron creates a terrifying portrayal of a woman without reproach, determined to get the man of her dreams back. After the failure of her marriage, young adult fiction writer Mavis Gary decides to come back to her small home town and reclaim her former boyfriend. Mavis’ life is quiet and still. She is neutral to all that is around her and sees many nights with blind intoxication.
Patrick Wilson plays Buddy, her former beau and Patton Oswalt plays Matt, the nerd who’s locker was next to hers at high school. Twenty years after school finished, Mavis seems to have reverted back to the self-obsessed and selfish ways of teenagers. She can only think of herself, her happiness and nothing else matters. She is a traumatic character. She knows no love, and seems to be numb from the collapse of her former relationships.
Charlize Theron is as thrilling, dangerous and exciting as Mavis and does not shy away from embodying her pure self loathing. The character is an anomaly in mainstream independent cinema (which of course is where the film lives, much like Juno). Like Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding, man-hunting actions are initially off-putting and awkward. Playing the villain instead of the heroine, they are the “morally corrupt” leading protagonists in the eyes of conventional Hollywood cinema. Unlike Roberts however, Theron does not polish up and redeem herself in the third act, which is both unconventional and somewhat refreshing.
Diablo Cody continues to delve deeper into characters, unashamedly revealing their darkness. Perhaps this will shock fans of the quirky and comparatively light-hearted Juno, which put Cody on the map. Cody’s Showtime television dramedy United States of Tara also displayed a tendency towards the darkness, with Young Adult taking the express line towards depression and inner disintegration.
After his most recent success with Up in the Air, Jason Reitman lacks a certain slickness that comes with his former films. The most notable absence from the film is a lack of score. Understandably, this exclusion seems intentional to highlight the little that Mavis has going on in her life. Rolfe Kent of Dexter theme and Election, provides quirky moments that are unfortunately few and far between.
Young Adult is a dramedy with perhaps a stronger sense of drama than comedy, despite Theron’s Comedy or Musical nomination at the Golden Globes. The film is not a redeeming story of a wayward girl, nor does it have the classic overcoming of personal odds climatic scene. It is a story of someone much more real than the typical Hollywood protagonists we are so used to seeing.
Young Adult opened theatrically on January 19 through Paramount Pictures.