It’s an unusual film that’s both utterly compelling and overwhelmingly repulsive at the same time, but such is the nature of Young Adult, the latest film by Juno writer/director team Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman.
In the film, Charlize Theron stars as Mavis Gary, a washed up, divorced ghostwriter of a now defunct young adult book series. The only company Mavis has is her dog and the reality TV stars that she sits around watching all day. Mavis is just missing one thing, and that’s her high school sweetheart Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), who is now happily married with a baby on the way. Mavis is determined to win him back, so she sets off for her hometown of Mercury to rescue him from his ‘unfulfilled’ life.
Whilst in Mercury, she sees Matt (Patton Oswalt), a geek who was crippled after becoming the victim of a hate crime in high school. Mavis reveals the details of her repugnant plan to Matt, who tries to convince her that it won’t work, but Mavis is set in her ways. As Mavis and Matt strike up a tentative friendship, Mavis starts trying to lure Buddy away from his perfect suburban life into her chaotic world.
Charlize Theron is in her element as Mavis, equal parts insecure teenager and twisted adult, her performance toeing the line between tragic and humorous. Her chemistry with Matt (Patton Oswalt) is fantastic, and watching the two grapple with their various high school experiences is brilliant.
Throughout the film, Buddy remains the wildcard of the plot, with the audience unsure of what his response to Mavis’ affections will be. When the truth comes out, it’s extremely uncomfortable to watch, which is a testament to Reitman’s directing and Cody’s airtight script. The final scenes of the film will leave more than a few viewers feeling cheated, because Young Adult isn’t a feel-good redemption movie; it’s a movie about real life.
The film ends on a somewhat ambiguous note, but it’s a good thing that it does. An hour and a half of being in Mavis’ mind is more than enough for a lifetime. I may never watch Young Adult again, because of the levels of discomfort I experienced whilst watching, but it’s still an outstanding movie, and one you should most definitely see.