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Friday, 09 March 2012

Film Review: Young Adult

     

Director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody follow up their bright, optimistic teenage comedy, Juno, with a dark variation on the homecoming/nostalgia-trip movie, a familiar genre that probably originated with Julien Duvivier's Un Carnet de bal in 1937. Charlize Theron plays the depressed, borderline alcoholic divorcee Mavis Gary, ghostwriter on a once popular series of high school novels that's about to be axed. Out of the blue she decides to revisit her native hometown of Mercury, Minnesota, where 20 years ago she was prom queen. Mavis's mad aim is to win back her handsome high-school boyfriend, Buddy (sweet-natured Patrick Wilson), who's just become a father, and wrest him from a life of small-town mediocrity.

At first it's funny and superior as Mavis patronises her despised Hicksville roots and prepares herself for conquest. It modulates into funny and embarrassing, before it becomes unadulterated embarrassment verging on the deeply sad and even tragic. Theron is excellent and heartbreaking as she experiences her midlife crisis and sees how much she's misread the world around her. But the star of the film is stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt as the pudgy former classmate she'd ignored who becomes her new confidant. As a teenager he briefly achieved a sort of fame as the victim of a hate crime when he was permanently crippled by bullies who attacked him in the belief that he was gay. When he proved to be straight, his case was considered less interesting, and he settled for a life as an eccentric, friendless stoic. The film's moral is that you can go home again, but you'd be wise not to.


by Philip French

category: Film Reviews

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