January 2, 2012

Young Adult: Can’t Find My Way Back Home

(© 2011 - Paramount Pictures)

In Young Adult, Mavis (Charlize Theron) is an impossibly beautiful (and she knows it), divorced writer of young adult fiction in her mid to late 30s who lives self-absorbedly in big city Minneapolis, parties too often, drinks too much, sleeps with the TV on tuned perpetually to The Kardashians, isn’t the least bit nice, and yet now wishes she could have done things differently. So she decides to go back to her suburban Mercury, Minnesota roots and try to reunite with her long-lost high school love – the one that got away.

So far, this film has all the makings of a romantic comedy starring the interchangeable Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, or Sarah Jessica Parker. Throw in Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, or Josh Duhamel and, ladies, we’ve got the perfect recipe for a feel-good movie that you can relate to and walk out of feeling like true love is possible for you too, right?


Young Adult comes from the razor-sharp pen of Diablo Cody (the author of Juno). Her mercilessly cynical writing is immensely entertaining, poignant, and funny…and all too uncomfortably relatable to a generation of women and men who suddenly find all their friends evaporating into an incessantly-self-described state of blissful matrimony and parenthood, while they’re in a suspended state of discontented adolescence. Stuck in such a purgatory, even the strongest willed among us surely have considered doing what Mavis does by going back home and righting the wrongs of the past.

However, as the cliché states: You can’t go back home. Your mirror may deceive you into thinking you haven’t changed, but the people, consequences, and circumstances you’ve left behind have. Mavis returns home, meets up with her old boyfriend Buddy to whom she’s pinned all her hopes and dreams for the future…and hits the brick wall – or street lamp (see the movie!) – of reality.

Theron would be a solo tour de force of nature in this movie if not for comedian Patton Oswalt’s portrayal of Matt, the perpetual loser/geek who was literally scarred for life by high school (again, see the movie!) and who still collects action figures, distills homemade bourbon, and owns a collection of ‘90s indie-rock t-shirts. Mavis may have ignored Matt throughout high school, but now years later, with all the reluctance and disdain of the still-mean prom queen forced to acknowledge the class geek, she grows to rely on him as her confidante, voice of reason, drinking buddy, and more.

While the Mr. Big-dreaming fans of a certain franchise may find this movie and Mavis abhorrent, welcome to the dark and real side of life (or as real as a comedic film gets) and embrace the uncomfortable humor of Young Adult.

Seemingly free of the constraints of Hollywood focus group audiences, America’s Sweethearts, and cliché, Cody has teamed up with the equally talented devil-and-single-women-may-care Theron to produce a wholly unsympathetic character and date movie from hell – and it's a damn good one!

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