This is not a romantic comedy. Full stop. Turn around if that is what you are expecting. This is a Jason Reitman – director (Up in the Air, Thank You For Smoking)/Diablo Cody – screenwriter (Juno, Jennifer’s Body) film. It is dark, dark comedy. With the incredibly gorgeous (and brave) Charlize Theron as an essentially unlikable character. Right, you’ve been warned.
Mavis (Charlize Theron – Hancock, The Road) is the type of woman who hit her peak in high school and never progressed any further. She is a 37-year-old with the mentality of a 16-year-old. Now she is a heavy drinking divorced woman who ghostwrites teen fiction novels. A lonely woman who really has very little grasp on reality. See, she sees her life as exciting and the envy of everyone while in reality she is really lonely and pathetic.
During a particularly low moment she decides that she is going to go back to her hometown in Mercury, Minnesota to win back her high school boyfriend. The interesting part is that Buddy (Patrick Wilson – Little Children, Watchmen) is married to Beth (Elizabeth Reaser – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, The Art of Getting By) and they have just had a baby. These two crucial facts seemed to have escaped Mavis. Actually, she doesn’t give a rats ass and just believes that breaking up the marriage is the right thing to do because she and Buddy belong together.
Once in Mercury Mavis runs into Matt (Patton Oswalt – A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, Ratatouille), a guy she barely remembers from high school. Matt was not very popular in high school and was even given a severe beating by a bunch of jocks who thought he was gay (which he isn’t). The beating left him with some permanent injuries. Against all odds the two bond and form an odd kind of friendship.
I can sum up the review of this film in a couple of words. They would be: a revelation, brilliant, funny, sad, and uncomfortable. These are feelings or words that will run through your mind and body as you sit there watching the film. A different kind of role for Miss Theron. She impressed me with her braveness as this is not your usual Hollywood starlet kind of role. After her Oscar winning turn in the film Monster we know she can act, but in this film we see her range. She can do bitchy, she can do sly humour and she can do vulnerable. All this and she is gorgeous and over six feet in heels. I should hate her but I can’t! In this film she is able to bring her character through the stages of discovering who she is, then accepting and moving on. Not changing one iota…in other words, no Hollywood ending…incredible!
I should have known that this being a film written by the brilliant but left of center Diablo Cody and directed by the talented but doesn’t do blockbusters Jason Reitman it would be…how shall I say it…nontraditional. The dialogue is very natural and realistic. That is how people talk in real life. This level of realism and wit supplied by Cody’s script is amplified by Reitman’s subtle directing. All the decisions about how he tells this particular tricky story seem to be bang on. No missteps. No lags in the story. No weird editing. No awful acting left in. Even the visuals are interesting and lend themselves to the story. He (and Theron allows it) shows Mavis looking awful and the process it takes for her to look great. And that really allows us to understand and ultimately feel sorry for this character.
There were different points in the film in which I was so uncomfortable that I felt like shutting it off. Believe it or not those are the best parts! Though there is several comedic moments there are plenty of wonderful (if I can call them that) highly awkward scenes. Just prepare yourself for a drunken rant on the front lawn at a party, people! You’ve been warned! Sit through them. Don’t fast forward. You’ll be happy you didn’t.
-Misery Loves Company: The Making of Young Adult
-The Awful Truth: Deconstructing a Scene
-Q&A Featuring Janet Maslin & Jason Reitman at the Jacob Burns Center