Fair Warning: This is an awkward, uncomfortable film. With not an ounce of exaggeration (but one or two of shame) I can honestly admit I hid beneath the protective confines of my hood for a sizeable portion of Young Adult
Documenting the mischievous exploits of Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron
), a 37 year old struggling ghost author attempting to snatch away an old flame from his wife and newborn, it’s no easy watch. In fact, Mavis is more antagonist than central character. Her adolescent antics less than enamour her to the audience.
Not that a Young Adult
writer, who submerges herself in teenage culture wouldn’t herself be somewhat juvenile. Of course
It’s just she’s an awful wagon.
Awful, awful wagon!
Therein, obviously, lies the appeal...
Theron’s performance is as deft as it is consummate, commanding scenes with a sneer, divulging putrid complexity with well timed scorn. Unlike previously unflattering roles, notably 2003’s Monster
, her looks are deliberately played upon, to compound the ‘Skinny Bitch’ mentality.
Left: A different kind of Theron. Not as pretty.
Speaking of mental, there is a ubiquitous undertone that Mavis might suffer in this regard. She’s terribly lonely, perceptibly insecure and hopelessly lost. However this thread merely dangles, never adequately dealt with.
A parallel, perhaps? Deep.
Commendable support is provided from the affable Buddy (Patrick Wilson
) and cynical Matt (Patton Oswald
) but Theron dominates every single scene. And while her callous, manipulative attitudes earn Mavis few friends within this fiction, despite themselves, audiences will cackle with regularity.
crafts eerily familiar individuals and proverbial circumstance. And as a comedy, its attention to detail is both commendable and effective. Characters, not caricatures, generate the best laughs. Fact.
Dramatically, however, it falters, a noticeable defect due to the project’s potent narrative.
Fundamentally, those of you with traditional values and moral compasses will resent any woman, however troubled, attempting to break up a happy home. That’s just not kosher!
As cutting and deliciously unkind as Mavis is, this initial hurdle proves the highest. And despite capable direction via Jason
(Juno, Up in the Air, Thank You for Smoking
) Young Adult
fails to vault it, to establish this most vital emotional resonance.
Her flaws exposed, her heart evident and visible upon her sleeve, Mavis Gray remains a wagon!
As stated, Young Adult
documents the mischievous exploits of a 37 year old struggling ghost author attempting to snatch away an old flame from his wife and newborn. Does that sound more appealing a second time?
No amount of character depth or personal anguish will actually convince you to root for Mavis.
Nor should you; she’s a jerk. But you should see this film. Because it’s unique, it’s well written, it’s intelligent, it’s interesting and, for once, it explores the mindset of the villain.
Also, though an acquired taste, Young Adult
boasts exquisite, painfully cringe-worthy humour.
I’m still recovering.