- Charlize Theron stars in the new comedy from the team that brought you "Juno." Submitted photo.
You know how booze clouds your thinking? Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is an alcoholic and hoo boy, does she ever have some screwed up ideas. Mavis was hot stuff in high school. Great looking and popular, she was the envy of the lesser kids. After school, she moved away from tiny Mercury, MN for the big city life in Minneapolis. At 37, Mavis is still a knockout, with a glamorous career as a writer of a hit series of young adult novels. What her admirers back at home don't know is that Mavis is a self-absorbed arrested adolescent. Her life is in shambles and the young adult book series - did I mention that Mavis is an uncredited ghost writer for the books? - is being canceled after she turns in her final, overdue manuscript.
Then Mavis comes up with a plan. She'll go back to Mercury, reunite with Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), her high school sweetheart, and have the perfect life she deserves. In fact, Buddy is happily married to Beth (Elizabeth Reaser) and has a new baby, but never mind that. Mavis knows - she just knows - that Buddy feels unhappy and trapped with his wife and child. But all that will change when she rescues him.
Young Adult (showtimes) is a wicked mix of comedy and drama from writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, who last teamed up on the cheerfully caustic comedy, Juno. Reitman also directed Thank You for Smoking and Up in the Air. Impressive resume, Jason. Young Adult is darker than Juno and more squirm-inducing, in a good way. It's also far less self-satisfied (thanks for that, Diablo). The film is bold, daring to present a lead character who is almost totally unsympathetic. It also presents a thoroughly engaging odd couple, throwing together Mavis with Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), an embittered former student.
About Matt. Back in high school he was savagely beaten by a group of jocks who assumed he was gay. Crippled physically and emotionally by the attack, he now lives quietly with his sister Sandra (Collette Wolfe), who has idolized Mavis since the ... uh ... good old days.
So what happens between Mavis and Buddy? How does Mavis the glamor girl and geeky Matt end up hanging out with each other? All you really need to know is that everything plays out realistically, more or less, which means you're going to witness a series of terribly embarrassing moments. You'll laugh, you'll cringe, you'll even care.
The actors playing the citizens of Mercury effectively serve as reasonable, caring individuals that do not fall into small-town caricature. But the show belongs to Chalize Theron and Patton Oswalt. She gives a daring performance, as far from her celebrated turn in Monster as can be, but just as precise. Oswalt, best known as a stand-up comedian, does a hell of a job as a twisted soul with a black sense of humor. The success in Young Adult hinges on the chemistry between this unlikely pair and both actors find the perfect balance. Young Adult contains no great truths. It's simply well-written, well-acted and entertaining, so long as you don't mind taking a walk to the dark side.