Movie Review: Young Adult

A tale of a grown woman stuck in the past, Young Adult snatches a go-to romantic comedy plot and twists it into a dark cultural commentary on society’s arrogance blocking its ability to mature. Mavis Gray (Charlize Theron) is a 37-year-old semi-successful author of a mediocre young adult series. She makes a visit to her hometown of Mercury, Minn., to reconnect with her high school sweetheart Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). Her urge to rekindle a two-decade-old relationship is spurred by the notice she receives that Slade is a new father. The once popular and beautiful Mavis is now a slightly disheveled and depressed version of her young self, longing to fill her life’s void of happiness and to prove to the world that the glories of high school popularity never fade.

Upon her return to Mercury, Mavis bumps into a similarly dejected high school classmate Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), whom she conveniently neglected back in the day. He acts as the voice of reason and as a much needed companion in her current alcoholic binges. Young Adult takes you with the delusional Mavis in her attempt at mending her present by reliving the past. With explosive scenes revealing Mavis’ repulsive character and Matt’s troubled past, you leave this movie feeling grim about the life Matt was forced to live and the life Mavis has chosen to live, both depressing at best. The film moves slowly, but not slower than reality, so it works beautifully. The actors portray these unlikable characters so well that I left the movie not knowing if I enjoyed it. Not because I couldn’t recognize its superb quality, but I’m used to leaving movies satisfied knowing the “bad” characters have received their due justice, and that feeling is purposefully unfulfilled here. With some emotionally disturbing and challenging scenes, the film captures the characters’ disillusionment perfectly.

You should see this, if only to witness Theron’s and Oswalt’s  Oscar-worthy performances. The character development is well-crafted through subtleties, and that’s a testament to the writing and directing. Though Mavis’ character is clearly not likable, you feel yourself rooting for her, and that pretty much sums up the genius of it.