What have the inside of a closed coffin, my printer and Young Adult got in common? They’re all surprisingly dark. The new offering from Diablo Cody is not the fluffy fare of Juno. Instead, it is an uncomfortably funny look at arrested development and the urge to relive your glory days.
This movie is the anti-Sweet Home Alabama. Theron’s Mavis is a writer of young adult fiction who returns home from her “fancy” city life when her ex-boyfriend and his wife have a baby. Mavis is an emotionally stunted wreck, reliving her high-school past through her books, still obsessing over former beau Buddy. What follows his her obsessive and disturbing attempt to win him away from his wife and newborn daughter.
The first this you should notice about this movie is how damn good it looks. Reitman always manages to create an atmosphere and doesn’t wash the movie out for the sake of it. He balances dull and striking and isn’t afraid of colour when he uses it. Theron’s close-ups are intimate and unnerving, while she delivers subtlety and unnerves us with her portrait of a very disturbed woman. Reitman proves, once again, that he knows what he wants you to see and how to show it to you.
Charlize Theron is incredible. She’s proved herself fearless before in terms of her choice of roles and this is no exception. Mavis is the kind of part that would have Katherine Heigl hiding under her duvet. Patton Oswalt is excellent as Matt, the “hate crime guy”. He brings his usual conviction to making Matt into an earnest and likable character. Wilson hasn’t got an awful lot to do but does it well.
Cody’s screenplay is the remedy to infinite comedies where the once-bullied-now-sexy lead returns to their home town. Mavis is a former high-school star who never recovered. Atypically, she has a brain and is successful as well as having won “Best Hair”, but she’s empty and unfulfilled, waiting for Buddy to come to his senses for 20 years. The script explores what a person does if their best is behind them and nothing is in front of them. Not a typical comedy by any means but the laughs are there, sometimes explicitly and sometimes out of discomfort. Either way Diablo Cody has delivered her meatiest work to date.
With the Oscar Nominations released today, it must be a disappointing one for Young Adult. In our opinion it deserved some acknowledgement for raising the bar for comedies. Excellent performances, solid screenplay and tight direction deserve better than they got. Oscar or not, this is a must-see. Much smarter than its poster gives it credit for.