Young Adult

The wonder of Jason Reitman's Young Adult is Charlize Theron, whose dark, dyspeptic character, juvenile fiction ghost writer Mavis Gary, so nimbly turns audiences verging on pity to deep animosity with a single line of such unimaginable insensitivity that we are left speechless. Kudos to writer Diablo Cody (Juno, United States of Tara) who has rendered yet another richly imagined middle-American dramedy that is squirm-inducing because Mavis's narcissism blinds her to her toxicity. For reasons that are not altogether clear, Mavis gets the notion to leave her Minnesota apartment for her hometown of Mercury once she learns that her high school beau (Patrick Wilson) has just become a father. She's determined to win him back. The results are devastating, and Theron's performance as a woman on the verge of a breakdown is Oscar-caliber. Mavis is a marvelous creation, as is her accidental drinking buddy, one-time hate-crime victim Matt Freehauf (winningly portrayed by Patton Oswalt). They find each other at the bottom of a shot glass into which they crawl to escape their individual pain and loneliness. Cody has written several brilliantly revelatory scenes but the capper, for me, comes near the end and is between Mavis and Matt's sister Sandra (Collette Wolfe), after Mavis and Matt's pity roll in the hay the night before. The scene between the two women will surely be savored by film buffs for years as a model of both screenwriting, film directing and acting as it captures, in five solid minutes, two people having a "heart-to-heart" and mishearing everything the other person is saying. It's amazingly real.


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