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Young Adult

Young Adult

What She said:

She

Heavy, but not too heavy—that’s how I would describe Young Adult.  It’s a story about a super beautiful, super popular, and super pathetic woman in her mid-thirties who actually cannot move beyond her teenage years. 

Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary, a flawless blonde who lives in the big city, ghostwriting a formerly highly successful line of young adult fiction novels.  At first glance, it would look like she has it all, but her life is so far from it.  She has one failed marriage under her belt, and seems to float around in a haze from non-commitment to non-commitment.  She’s also finishing up penning the final book in the series that made her at least somewhat wealthy.  The once well-known series has grown stale, and bookstores now have to practically give it away.  Mavis, in denial over her problems, drowns them in alcohol, and she’s done well enough to get by.  Until she finds out that her ex-boyfriend from high school has a new baby girl. 

Buddy Slade’s joy is Mavis’ misery, and so she decides to return to her small town roots and try to get Buddy back, almost destroying his life.  Mavis comes off as a total psycho and absolutely desperate, but everyone is nice to her, just as they always have been, because she’s pretty.  The only person who sheds any light on the reality of her life is Matt Freehauf, whose locker was right next to Mavis’ in high school and yet who she hardly remembers, of course.  Matt was also beaten to a pulp in school as part of a hate crime.  He’s never been able to fully get over the physical and emotional damage.  Will Mavis get Buddy back?  Will she find any personal growth in the process?

On its surface, Young Adult is a dark comedy.  It actually has some very funny moments.  Early on you’ll laugh often at Mavis’ sloppiness.  It’s amazing that someone who cleans up so well can be a complete mess otherwise.  As the film progresses, you’ll start to see that there are other elements at play.  Deeper at its core, the movie is a character analysis, as we watch Mavis and Matt both struggle to move beyond their pasts.  And the film is not fluff either.  It’s not guaranteed that either one will be successful on their personal journeys. 

Mavis and Matt could not be any more different, and yet the common ground that they share make their relationship enjoyable to watch.  It’s almost hard to imagine the bizarre world where someone like Mavis can exist.  Even her own parents are in denial about her issues—they simply laugh when she exclaims, “I think I’m an alcoholic.”  You won’t particularly like Mavis because she’s a huge home wrecker, and yet you’ll sort of understand why she is the monster that she is.  I was not a Mavis in high school, but I can believe that someone like her could be out there.

Young Adult is well balanced and I couldn’t help but find it fascinating. 

Thumbs up.

What he said:

He

Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) was the most popular guy in her school. She was good looking, popular, and had the guy of her dreams. The problem with Mavis is that she never really (mentally) got past that part in her life. She’s still stuck there. She never got over her high school boyfriend Buddy (Patrick Wilson) and is reminded of this when something relatively harmless reminds or of this. Buddy recently sent a list of friends (old and new) a picture of his newly born daughter. Seems pretty normal, right? Well Mavis isn’t exactly normal and this sends her into a bit of a tizzy. She decides she’s going to go back to her hometown and try to win back her old flame (despite the fact he is happily married and recently became a father for the first time).

That’s kind of Mavis in a nutshell. She kind of doesn’t care about anything other than what she wants. If she sounds kind of horrible, well she is. You get the impression she wasn’t the nicest person in high school and still really isn’t. No worries though, as you don’t spend the entire movie watching a character you hate. Her self-involved personality can be quite funny at times. This chick is so self-absorbed you can’t help but laugh at her when you aren’t busy pitying or hating her. That’s kind of how the movie goes. It’s really funny in parts, a little sad in others, and infuriating in what remains. It is your classic drama in that sense. -

When she gets back to town, she touches base with Buddy. He’s not immediately available, but definitely wants to get together. So she ends up killing time at a local watering hole where she bumps into another former classmate.

Patton Oswalt plays Matt Freehauf. Matt was the kind of guy Mavis didn’t even know existed; despite the fact his locker was right next to hers. She only remembers him when she is reminded of a horrible accident from his youth. Matt was brutally beaten by a group of his classmates because they thought he was gay. Matt has his own problems, but objects to Mavis’ plan of winning Buddy back and doesn’t hesitate to tell her.  It is ironic they end up hanging out, because he was the kind of person she wouldn’t dare be seen with in high school. But because Mavis herself is something of a loser now, she hangs out with him in between her meetings with Buddy. It kind of shows you how far she’s fallen from her glory days as the popular girl. The two form a strange bond over the course of the movie.

This movie has a lot of layers to it. For a healthy chunk of the movie, this appears to be a dark comedy and it really is in many ways. But at a certain point, it gets a little more serious; revealing some depth that wasn’t there before. Does Mavis learn her lesson? Does she get Buddy back? What happens to Matt?

This was a well-acted and intriguing movie. Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt were absolutely fantastic. Patrick Wilson was also good.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on March 30, 2012.