Young Adult

Updated: 11 May 2012

Time Out says

Rating: 3/5

Dir: Jason Reitman (2011, 94 min). Cast: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson

The last time scion director Jason Reitman joined forces with celebrity gadfly screenwriter Diablo Cody, the results were honest-to-blog insufferable. The most fatal of ‘Juno’’s many sins was mistaking its narcissistic, quip-firing heroine for someone worthy of our affection. ‘Young Adult’, Reitman and Cody’s encore collaboration, makes no such error in judgment. Its protagonist, a Minneapolis-based wordsmith who ghostwrites a popular tween-lit franchise, is off-putting by design. It’s tempting to read Charlize Theron’s Mavis as Cody’s sly auto-critique – the character is a thirtysomething scenester who earns her keep writing about teenagers – except that only someone with a serious case of selfloathing would paint herself in such a deeply unsympathetic light.

Vaulted into action by an unexpected e-mail, Mavis sets out to win back her college sweetheart, despite the fact that said ex-beau (Patrick Wilson) is now married with a newborn. Reitman nails the culture shock of returning to your hometown after years spent in a big city, while Cody’s script scores some cheap laughs off the curiosities of strip-mall suburbia. (KenTacoHut, anyone?) It saves its true disdain, though, for Mavis herself, a former prom queen whose superiority complex scarcely disguises her desire to be the big fish in a small pond again. Rather than softening the edges of this conceited schemer, Theron buries herself in the ugliness of the part, albeit without ‘Monster’-style makeup. It’s a funny and bracingly unsentimental performance.

Against the advice of an old classmate turned drinking buddy (Patton Oswalt, who spikes his sardonic-outcast routine with a dollop of sadness), Mavis follows her amoral plot to its logical conclusion. Far from offering the character a shot at redemption, ‘Young Adult’ remains perversely committed to her awfulness. Courage of convictions is a sign of maturity in any satirist; Mavis may have a lot of growing up to do, but Cody seems to be coming into her own quite nicely. AA Dowd

Tags: Film