As I stated in my review of Movie Review: Horrible Bosses, I love my dark comedies. This may not be the first type of film that springs to mind when you think of the second pairing of Juno cohorts, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, it’s a welcome change. While Reitman and Cody are both spending their careers growing and evolving, it’s the exact opposite we get from Charlize Theron’s character of Mavis Gary in Young Adult.
While Reitman seems to be on a projected path to do no wrong (see Thank You for Smoking, along with Juno and Up in the Air being nominated for Best Pictures), Cody still has yet to prove herself. But if Young Adult is any indication of what’s to come, we can still expect the best from her yet. Not everyone was a huge fan of Juno, and I am in a huge minority who didn’t hate Jennifer’s Body, but this film is a different beast entirely from either of those.
Mavis Gary lives in “The Minneapple,” (aka Minneapolis, Minnesota) where she ghost writes a YA, er… young adult…series called Waverly Prep. Her agent is trying to help her out by offering her one last hurrah to finish the now canceled series with book #178. Life proves to have taken its toll on the divorced author who begins obsessing on what could have been when she receives a baby announcement for her old high school beau Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). Buddy is happily married to Beth (Elizabeth Reaser), who plays in a band full of mothers and he’s very fulfilled with his life choices. But Mavis has hopes of other plans as she returns to her hometown of Mercury to try to win him back and beat his odds together.
Yes, Mavis is a little crazy. And so is Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), who works at a local dive as bookkeeper and still lives with his sister Sandra (Collette Wolfe). Matt has his own crutch in life (literally), after a high school hate crime left him with shattered legs and a crooked penis because the jocks assumed he was gay. Matt sees right through Mavis’s self loathing and insanity while everyone else around her thinks she’s back in town looking to invest in some real estate. Now, with the help of Matt’s homemade bourbon and a lot of Maker’s Mark (“up” anyone?), Matt and Mavis set out on a course of self discovery and maybe, just maybe, a tiny bit of retribution.
Films filled to the brim with despicable characters up to no good generally don’t do quite as well as those with central characters surrounded by a gawking supporting cast. Thankfully, Reitman and Cody try to give Mavis a little hope, and Theron is able to handle her character with the right kind of hilarity and pity that she deserves. Her Mavis comes off as a cross between her Oscar winning turn as Aileen Wuornos in Monster and her recurring Rita from Arrested Development. Just because she looks so good for her age doesn’t mean she’s all there.
While everything this time may not be aiming for a little gold statue, it’s nice to see a film tonally leaning towards Death Becomes Her or Death to Smoochy. Even the original score by Rolfe Kent has an underlying menace that many may not pick up on, but sounds like the most menacing rom-com score ever put on film. So far, it seems as though Reitman stands as the only one who can do justice to a Cody screenplay, although she gets to try her hand with her own material next. And maybe they should just continue working together indefinitely as Young Adult proves yet another winner in the companionship.
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