Sunday, December 18, 2011

Young Adult

Today I saw Young Adult, starring Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt.

Mavis Gary (Theron) got out of the small town she was raised in, moved to the big city, got married, became a young adult author and got divorced. Convinced she can find happiness with her high school sweetheart, she returns to said small town to break up his marriage and re-claim him as her own.

When she arrives in Mercury, Minn., the first person she sees is Matt (Oswalt), a former classmate who was permanently injured in an attack he endured during high school. True to stereotypical form, Mavis is not exactly kind to Matt, just as she wasn't when they were kids, but soon realizes he makes a good confidant (and drinking buddy). He entertains her perhaps because he enjoys the attention, or the puzzle of trying to figure her out.

Her pursuit of Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) is desperate, sad, devious and unfortunately completely believable. We all know women like this; we all know how it feels to suffer for the one who got away.

While the film's subject matter could be depressing for a variety of reasons, the sharp writing of Diablo Cody, thankfully dialed down from the cuteness of Juno, makes it sarcastic and funny, rather than tragic.

Now, that's not to say the audience isn't given an opportunity to cry near the end (I'll admit I did), but when the emotion arrives we've all earned it because we genuinely care about all of these people.

Theron is wonderful as this multi-dimensional mess; Oswalt delivers his best dramatic performance as the wounded soul who doesn't waste his time being bitter. They're one of the most real pairs, with the most real chemistry, to hit the big screen in a long time.

Reitman does right by his viewers, nailing the authenticity of a small town without making its residents stupid or simple. The Memorex yellow and pink cassettes that Mavis rocks out to are also a nice touch (every musical thirtysomething girl will remember those from childhood).

The only place this film fails is in the marketing—before seeing it, I assumed it would be a romantic comedy-catch-phrasey romp. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised with a dramedy full of heart.


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