by Rick Grant
Charlize Theron stars as Mavis Gary, a successful writer of a genre of fiction called “young adult,” pandering to the romantic interests of 18 to 21 year old women. She is what psychiatrists call “a child woman” who, emotionally, never grew up beyond her late teens. Her stunted emotional growth is exacerbated by her absorption in writing her youth oriented books.
Although Mavis is in her late thirties, she behaves like a nineteen year-old girl who never got over losing her high school sweetheart. So she hangs around bars drinking way too much. When she gets drunk, which is practically every night, she longs for the good old days when she and the love of her life, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) were together.
Theron skillfully portrays Mavis’ insecurities, which make her character seem crazy, yet she exudes a certain vulnerability that makes viewers somewhat sympathetic of her childish behavior.
The object of reteaming “Juno’s” director, Jason Reitman with its screenwriter, Diablo Cody was not to recapture the magic of “Juno,” (that was a one shot deal) but to explore this disturbed character with poignancy and humor. Cody’s script fulfils that promise. With Theron’s superb acting and Cody’s succinctly crafted script, Mavis walks into a situation for which she is not prepared.
Yes, in going back to her past and her fantasy of rekindling the spark with Buddy, Mavis is suddenly faced with the real world of a solid marriage. Elizabeth Reaser plays Beth Slade with a firm grasp of her strength and character. Of course, she immediately saw through Mavis’ blatant bid to steal Buddy, but she was confident in their bond not to make a big issue out of it.
At a bar, Mavis meets Matt Freehauf, (Patton Oswalt) who takes her under his wing to help her face reality. As she makes a complete fool of herself at the Slades. Matt is there to bail her out, but Mavis is too far gone to listen.
This character study of this delusional woman is both poignant and occasionally funny. Indeed, Theron turned in a virtuoso performance with subtlety and finesse. It could win her an Oscar nomination–or not.
Young Adult movie review
by Rick Grant