Young Adult

Art & Culture

Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to tell you that this is as good as or better than Juno or Up In The Air, the last 2 films directed by Jason Reitman, who made this (from a script by Diablo Cody who wrote Juno), but I cannot tell a lie. While I enjoyed it moderately, I was left feeling shortchanged and underwhelmed.
I can see what they're trying to do here. Take a very unsympathetic central character, Mavis (Charlize Theron), put her in a situation in which she lives down to her own low standards of behaviour, and then see if the audience still roots for her. Mavis is not as cute as Ellen Page in Juno, or as endearingly world weary as Clooney in Up In The Air; she's just an immature and narcissistic pain in the arse.
She's a thirthysomething without purpose or meaning. She earns a living of sorts by writing teenage fiction, but the series she works for is coming to the end of the road. So, on a whim, she packs her bag and her dog and heads back to her hometown, with the singleminded and misguided goal of reclaiming her high school boyfriend Buddy (Patrick Wilson). To tell the truth, Buddy is no great catch, not that bright and not that handsome, but more to the point, he's happily married and has just had a baby, so he's not really available. Mavis being Mavis, this is not an obstacle. She means to get her man, by whatever means she can. Her ally/antagonist in this impossible dream is Matt (Patton Oswalt), who was also at school with her, but is fat, and disabled (having being set upon by homophobic jocks who wrongly thought he was gay). He advises her to lay off Buddy, but Mavis doesn't listen to anyone.

That's the outline of the story, and it probably sounded like a neat idea when Diablo and Jason were discussing the outline over a cappuccino but on the screen, it seems kind of thin. It's fairly obvious that Mavis is deluded in her pursuit, so there is no real tension as to whether Buddy will succumb to her dubious charms. We know she's a fuckup, because she behaves that way throughout, and although we don't want Redemption, her lack of self awareness and charm becomes rather grating. It all seems very slight and inconsequential – girl/woman makes idiot of herself repeatedly – and not especially funny. It's not that there's nothing to enjoy. Theron and Oswalt have great screen chemistry, and I admire the attempt to choose this sort of person as the main character. I'd even encourage you to go and see it, so as to tell me what I missed, because I just can't see that it was worth making this film, given the talents of those involved.


Phil Raby

Front Row Films

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