Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Review: Young Adult

Diablo Cody seems incapable of writing realistic dialogue or giving characters believable motivations. Or giving them names that don't seem like they came from pro wrestling, for that matter.

And that's exactly what makes her movies so much fun.

Did Shakespeare write the way people talk? Did Woody Allen? Or Kevin Smith? When it comes to film, and especially comedy, realism is overrated.

Go into Young Adult with your logic detectors on high alert and they'll explode your brain, especially in the third act. Although Cody, the Oscar-winning screenwriter who penned loved-by-most Juno and hated-by-most Jennifer's Body, no longer tries to make everything that comes out of every character's mouth seem like it belongs on a bumper sticker, she's still very much her rambunctious, challenging self. And the comedy of manners, under the careful guidance of director Jason Reitmen, is all the better for it.

 Charlize Theron play Mavis Gary, a ghostwriter who cranks out Young Adult yarns about the drama and insecurity of high school life. Although she's 37, she's so good at what she does because her maturity level is stuck back in high school. On a whim, sparked by raging jealousy over a birth announcement from a former flame, Mavis heads back to the one-Chili's town that spawned her for a drunken, half-cocked attempt at stealing her ex away from his wife and baby.

At a bar, she runs into Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), a pudgy geek who lives with his sister and action figure collection. Mavis is the type of girl from high school that everyone remembers and doesn't expect to remember them. She co-opts Matt as a fallback friend for the trip -- the one she calls when plans A through D fall through, and he willingly complies. Disapproving of her plans to run away with Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), he becomes her conscience -- Jiminy Cricket with an unrequited crush.

Mavis is a walking grease fire; the type of narcissist who, if called a hot mess, thinks it's a compliment on her looks rather than a comparison to dog poop. Mavis hurls herself at Buddy with the aggression of a bowling ball, convinced that she'll have him forever -- or at least until she gets sick of him -- if only she can pry him away from that damned baby, whom she refers to as "it," and that agonizingly cheery wife (Collette Wolf).

Being a device and construct rather than a person, Mavis has a knack for saying and doing all the wrong things at precisely the wrong times, making an ass of herself and then blaming everyone but herself for the results. If you saw Bad Teacher, this is the Cameron Diaz character without as much tact or demureness.

Theron rarely gets to sink her teeth into a role like this, and has a disgusting amount of fun making us hate her while becoming as obsessed with her as poor, hapless Matt.

Because this movie is being tossed out to the Oscar-time wolves, people may dismiss it because it's so slight. There are no great truths here. Just a bunch of laughs, quotable lines and a lifetime supply of  awkwardness. It's a vintage example of the better angels emerging from the demented mind of a Diablo. 

Starring Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser and Patton Oswalt. Writted by Diablo Cody. Directed by Jason Reitman. Rated R. 94 minutes.

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