Young Adult re-teams director Jason Reitman with Juno writer Diablo Cody. They craft a semi-serious, semi-comic tale of a struggling, self-absorbed 30-something woman.
Charlize Theron is marvelous as Mavis, a woman on a quest to find truth, happiness and a personal and self-focused holy grail.
Mavis is unhappy. Realization has set in that she has failed to live up to her true potential. Mavis is not the successful novelist she set out to become. Her current gig is ghostwriting a popular but pulpy series of teenage novels. Mavis drinks too much and can’t hold on to relationships. That hits home when she learns her high school beau and one true love is now a father.
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Her hometown is the last place Mavis remembers at least thinking she was truly happy. A plan forms in her alcohol-addled mind. Go home, seduce the ex-beau and win him back. Presto. Instant happiness.
When she finally lets the ex-boyfriend in on her plan, he’s less than thrilled. He politely tells her he’s happily married, is a new father and loves life in his hometown. Her answer is a stone-faced, “I know we can beat this thing, together.”
That’s just one great line in a film packed with fun characters and pitch-perfect performances. It takes an actress as gorgeous at Theron to pull this character off.
And it doesn’t hurt that the lady is also a great actress. She’s good. So is everyone else.
However, it is comedian Patton Oswald who steals the show. He’s Mavis’ former high school non-friend and sad sack; a man forever crippled by a gang of popular jocks who thought he was gay.
Reitman’s films — Juno, Thank You for Smoking and Up in the Air — are a breath of fresh air in a movie world packed with stale sitcom plots, over-amped action movies, vegan vampires and worshiped wizard fantasies. Reitman sticks ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and pitches plots packed with narcissism, nicotine, negatives and booze.
As the self-absorbed Mavis finishes up her last ghostwriting gig — and in wonderful narration from Theron — Cody’s script gives tremendous insight into how a 30-something with everything to live for can end up like Mavis. It poses interesting questions about that most precarious of human conditions — the reluctant journey into adulthood.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 1/2 stars
Rated R for mature themes, language, drug use. It opens Friday, Jan. 27 at the Carmike 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.