Growing Up Is Hard in Young Adult (2011)
If alcoholism, denial, delusions, depression, and immaturity are funny, then Young Adult, (available March 13, 2012, on DVD and Blu-ray) is a regular ol’ knee-slapper. For whatever reason, it is categorized as a comedy, and many critical reviews rave about it’s comedic styling and star Charlize Theron’s comic talents. Theron gives an incredible performance in this character study of a ghost-writer of young adult novels whose maturity level is a tad too close to those of the high-schoolers about whom she writes, but this central character is humorless and, ultimately, pitiful.
Mavis Gary (Theron) is not so much at a crossroad but a dead end. Divorced, depressed, self-obsessed, and nearly jobless, she receives an email birth announcement from ex-boyfriend Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser). She broods about it, complains about it, and convinces herself that Buddy is being held hostage by marriage, fatherhood, and the “hick” town from which she escaped twenty years ago. Her mission is to reunite with Buddy, break up his marriage, and take him back to the “big city” that is now her home, Minneapolis.
After another meaningless one-night stand during which she proves how out-of-touch she is with the adult world and its values, she packs a bag and heads to Mercury, that small town she hates so much. Theron--at times luminous, at times desperate--shines in the difficult role of a character much of the audience will not like. The sincerity of her performance saves Mavis Gary from being despicable.and reveals the lost soul she truly is.
Young Adult has the benefit of a strong supporting cast; particularly noteworthy is Patton Oswalt as Matt Freehauf, the high school outcast now crippled who serves as Mavis’ only connection with reality, as brutal as it might be. In Mercury, Mavis is surrounded by likable people living their lives as happily as they can, yet--as wretched as her life is--in her sense of superiority, she pities them.Continued on the next page