Monday, August 3, 2015

Young Adult Review (Classic Write-Up)

"Money can't buy happiness" as that old saying goes, and Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) could not be a better example of this phrase. She isn't at a Bill Gates-level of financial prosperity, but she's got her own book series going on and she was quite popular in high school. Yet, she feels emptiness inside, which she tries to combat by projecting a "holier-than-thou" attitude on all that cross her path. In order to further outrun her inner despair, Mavis is returning to her hometown to reconnect with an old flame, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), who she's convinced is her soulmate. The only problem; Buddy is happily married with a kid. This is the sort of thing Mavis considers to be merely a bump in the road to her inevitable happiness.

Trying to make a character like Mavis work would be a coup for any screenwriter or actor, as you have to deftly portray depression without coming across as offensive or smoothing out the rough edges of the aspects that stem from this mood disorder. Luckily, Diablo Cody adds compelling layers to Mavis, namely in how she depicts how clinging to the past has removed any hope for Mavis to find some sort of future.

Charlize Theron, though, really takes Mavis to the next level as a character, with every insult she lobs at anyone who crosses her path (whether it be her cousin or a newborn child) feeling more like a devastating cry of despair to the heavens. You can practically feel the pain and confusion that consumes her life and Theron manages to get across all those specific emotions without making this role feel like some ploy for awards attention. Instead, it provides one of the best roles of her career, with Theron showing her outstanding capability for handling complex characters with poise and grace.

It's no wonder that Mavis gravitates towards Matt (Patton Oswalt) as an ally in her return to her hometown given that he shares her contempt for the outside world. One of the rare dramatic performances of his career, Oswalt is incredibly successful at not only bouncing off Theron in a realistic manner, but also working as a mirror image of sorts for Mavis. Plus, his experience with comedy means he gets to have a few light-hearted moments (such as him showing off his homemade bourbon to Mavis) that work thanks to Oswalts terrific comedic timing.

Between Labor Day and Men, Women & Children (neither of which I've seen), Jason Reitman has developed quite the poor following. Perhaps my ignorance over his two most recent films is for the best, since between Juno, and especially Up In The Air (God, I loved that movie, may be my favorite George Clooney motion picture) and now Young Adult, he's got a helluva track record for me. In this 2011 effort, he's made a film that really seems like the kind of project that could go haywire all to easily into a captivating look at a flawed human being navigating the withered expectations of her life. It's brutal and heartbreaking, but it's also material that makes for a great Charlize Theron performance and a fantastic movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment