I actually think Reitman’s two best films are the ones where he has adapted the source material himself. Those are Thank You for Smoking and Up in the Air. While I also liked Juno, I would place it third after those two films. Young Adult would come fourth for me.
The movie stars Charlize Theron as Mavis Gary, a thirty-something writer of novels in the Young Adult genre. This is a perfect job for her because she has essentially never grown up. She is still the self-absorbed, petulant, “bitch” that everyone felt she was in high school. Her character is the reason some people hated this film. She’s not supposed to be likable and she isn’t. It’s just a question of whether some people can still laugh at her actions in an “I’m glad I don’t have to deal with her” way.
She is suffering from writer’s block, and is also facing a sort of “growing up” crisis because the series she writes for is coming to an end. She will have to find something else to write about. One day she receives a notice that her high school boyfriend Buddy and his wife have had a baby. She decides this is a sign and she packs up laptop, junk food, dog, and an old mix tape Buddy gave her 20 years ago, and drives back to her hometown. In the best tradition of one of her novels she’s decided the two of them are meant to be together and these things like a wife and child are just minor obstacles to their eventual happiness.
Once back in town she quickly finds Buddy (Watchmen’s Patrick Wilson) and sets up a lunch for the next day. That evening she goes to a bar and meets a high school classmate named Matt. He is played by Patton Oswalt. While Mavis was the queen bee back then, Matt was one of the unpopular kids. Like most guys, he wanted to have sex with Mavis, but knew that he had no chance. Mavis doesn’t remember him at all, of course, because he wasn’t important. It’s not until he tells her he was the kid a bunch of jocks permanently injured one night because they thought he was gay that she finally realizes who he was.
Oswalt gives a great performance and it’s actually his role in this film that I liked the best. Mavis latches onto his character of Matt as a sort of confidant and she tells him everything she is planning. He tells her she’s nuts, but she doesn’t listen. You can also tell that part of him probably wants to see Mavis fall flat on her face, and that he’s actually more worried about the impact on Buddy.
Buddy and his wife Beth (Twilight’s Elizabeth Reaser) invite Mavis to their home and as you might expect, things don’t go well. By the way, having a member of the Twilight cast in a film about a female author of Young Adult fiction? I don’t think that was a coincidence.
Mavis commiserates with Matt. She finds out he actually has a still in his garage and they end up drinking there, too. Matt’s sister Sandra (Collette Wolfe) also lives there and we can quickly tell that she has had just as big a crush on Mavis as her brother Matt did. Mavis appears to realize this, but considers it completely unimportant. The two do have a key scene toward the end of the film, though. It is this scene that ruined the movie for some people, but I liked it. I appreciated the fact that it wasn’t the standard, clichéd scene that has been in so many films when the character finally comes to assess their life and not like what they see.
If you’ve liked Reitman’s and Cody’s other films, then you should definitely see this one. If you can’t laugh at the outrageous actions of an unlikable character, then you should probably skip this film. For everyone else, I recommend you give this a try.
Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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