By Maryann O’Connor
Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), a thirty-something divorcee, spends her days in Minneapolis avoiding writing fiction for a Young Adult book series set in a High School and drinking too much. She’s busy wallowing over the knowledge that her book series has been cancelled when a chance email bombshell arrives, sporting a sickly sweet announcement of successful procreation; her high school sweetheart Buddy has just had a baby.
She wakes up one day and decides to go back to her hometown of Mercury, so just pops her toy dog (not stuffed, just small) Dolce in his little carrier and drives there, concocting some story of legitimate business to attend to. What happens next is complicated and extremely funny. Mavis was a prom queen, a ruler of that painful microcosm of society known as the ‘easy’ part of our lives: our schooldays. People in her hometown still treat her reverentially and she tries hard to live up to the legend of her youth. Incidentally, how many prom queens do you know of called Mavis? Don’t worry, there will be no mention of Coronation Street characters from me.
Mercury is pretty much how Mavis left it but some things aren’t the same. The change which most concerns Mavis is the situation with her high school sweetheart Buddy (Patrick Wilson) who is seemingly happily married. There are still not many places to get a decent drink and the geeky kid, Matt, who had the locker next to hers at school keeps turning up to thwart her plans. He hasn’t progressed very far either but as Mavis later points out, he can blame that on his walking disability. This is one of the many refreshing things about Diablo Cody’s scripts; no topic seems to be off limits.
This is painful subject matter interspersed with intelligent and biting wit; not unexpected from the director and writer team of Juno, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody. They are both very different films but share a candid depiction of life, showing the honest and resoundingly real situations that we get into, both in our heads and out of them.
Cody recently told Hadley Freeman of the Guardian (‘Diablo Cody: devil’s advocate’, January 20 2012) that she likes to create different characters for women to play; “There are so many comedies in which a guy plays a man-child and that’s seen as funny. So I wanted for a woman to do that and show, actually, how sinister that is. Also, women are always supposed to be likable in movies, it’s the men who get the juicy parts. I wanted to make a female character who was unlikable but also interesting.”
Charlize Theron is an absolute goddess in this film, again proving that she can take on any role and absolutely nail it. Her onscreen relationship with Matt (played by Patton Oswalt) is touching and hilarious: one of the best things about the film. I would defy anyone to watch Young Adult and not find it resoundingly entertaining and thought-provoking.