December 22, 2011

Review: Charlize Theron Grows Up – 'Young Adult'

The team that brought you Juno, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, returns to bring you a decidedly darker, more mature effort in Young Adult. Charlize Theron is magically awful and watchable as Mavis Gray, a horribly selfish, self-involved, emotionally stunted, immature ghost writer of teen fiction, who returns to her small hometown.

So much has been said about male adolescence in adulthood on film, particularly the comedies of producer Judd Apatow. Here, we see a middle-aged Theron chugging Diet Coke, downing ice cream, and drinking like a sailor with caked on makeup. Mavis is a writer of young adult fiction, who is deeply unsatisfied with her life, looking to rekindle her past and relive her high school glory.

Young Adult is a difficult film. It shows the darker side of human emotions and relationships in a comedic way. Reitman and Cody eschew the snappy, clever dialogue, and visual flair for a refreshingly stripped down dramatic effort. Theron's character never changes and only becomes minimally self-aware of her behaviour yet creates a fully dynamic character.

Comedian Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille, The King of Queens) delivers a great supporting performance as Theron's sidekick, a handicapped high school friend. He plays up his usual "fat geek", Star Wars schtick well. An intimate scene of emotion and vulnerable with him and Theron near the end of the film is emotionally cinematic and a great piece of acting.

"That was stupid." I heard it from an older couple as the credits hit the screen. Young Adult is not for everyone. It's an oddly comedic yet emotionally dark look at human relationships and dissatisfaction. Theron's performance is a winner, crafting a disturbing portrait of a superficial, middle-aged woman, desperately stuck in her twenties. She's so unlikeable yet imminently watchable.

Young Adult is a mature, dramatic comedy about immaturity and wanting everything you had, reliving the past, and avoiding growing up.

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