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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Young Adult | Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt | Review

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  3_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Young Adult | Charlize Theron | Patrick Wilson | Patton Oswalt | Review

Quite an ironic title when you consider the behavior of its main character, a shallow, once-popular-in-high-school woman who decides how life should be for an old beau.  Completely entitled and lacking in insight, Minneapolis YA (Young Adult) writer Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) decides to visit the small town she grew up in to “rescue” her high school boyfriend Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) from his life of tedious entrapment.  This is occasioned by the birth announcement of Buddy’s first child.

Mavis is sure she has the situation figured out.  After all, wasn’t she prom queen?  Wasn’t she the most popular girl at Mercury high?  While concocting ways to get her hands on the very married Buddy, Mavis runs into former classmate Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt) remembering him only as the victim of a hate crime even though his locker was next to hers for years.

Director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody team up to show us a nasty piece of work in a nasty slice of life.  Mavis is an emotional train wreck with absolutely no insight and a double helping of entitlement.  Her knack of sizing up situations is so out of whack that you can pretty well predict a zig is in order when Mavis decides to zag.

Charlize Theron is so good as the very bad Mavis, even more mean-spirited than her Aileen Wournos characterization (just not as homicidal).  Patton Oswalt’s character is the anchor of common sense and self-deprecation, with more of a big picture world view than Mavis will ever grasp.  Patrick Wilson seems to walk through his role as the clueless Buddy, leading the delusional Mavis on without even meaning to.

The best that can be said for Young Adult is that it is not predictable. Don’t expect redemption or epiphany to come knocking at the door.  Mavis is stuck as the heroine in one of her own juvenile plots and even that series is coming to an end.  It’s Mavis and her ilk that go on and on, the bane of other peoples’ existences.

Other characters go undeveloped, seen only in relation to Mavis, like satellites around a hostile planet.

There’s comedy, but it’s a mean, locker room prank type of humor, more angry than funny.  A misguided and damaged Mavis is left to foist her miserable, vindictive personality on the unsuspecting lesser beings (in her own mind) that she encounters without any sort of meaningful comeuppance; perhaps that’s the film’s truest, saddest message.

Reitman and Cody revel in the cruelty, which seems to elevate it into something they’d like us to admire in this movie without a conscience.  That’s probably on purpose.

If there is a message here, it’s that ugliness can exist within an attractive shell, which will cause it to eventually crack and destroy itself.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to see it in Young Adult.  The shell that is Mavis simply moves to yet another self-made hell, no better and certainly, no wiser.

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