Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Not Everyone Grows Up.
Director: Jason Reitman
Written by: Diablo Cody
Starring: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt, Elizabeth Reaser, Collette Wolfe, Jill Eikenberry, Richard Bekins, Mary Beth Hurt.
Running time: 89 mins.
It's a funny thing being at high school. People tend to focus more on the social sides of things, climbing up to the top of the ladder and laughing at everyone on the lower rungs. We people who are still climbing are taught that nothing like this will matter in the future. The people who pay attention at school will get the rewards, even if they're bullied. The ones that are right up the top of the social ladder may find themselves a fair way down when it comes to real life. At my high school, it's very different to what the American movies would have me believe - but I do realise that being popular now won't matter in the future. That's exactly what Young Adult is all about. Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a 37 year old woman who used to be the most popular girl at her high school. She now works in the big city as a ghost writer for a once popular but now declining teen book series. After receiving an email from her old high school sweetheart Buddy Slade's (Patrick Wilson) wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser) that they've just had a baby together, Mavis makes the big return to her small hometown of Mercury, Minnesota in order to get Buddy back. When she gets there we realise that Mavis hasn't ever really got out of the mentality that being at the top of the social ladder is the most important thing in the world. It may be at high school, but she continues that on to the real world, where things don't need to be such a popularity contest.
Mavis Gary is a perplexing character. To put it straight: she's a bitch. She would be your worst nightmare if you were at high school with her. She says things without really thinking them through. She doesn't have a problem with putting people down. She drinks excessively. She eats junk food more often than not. It would seem she only cares about the way she looks. However, if you put the pieces together, you get the outlook of a very unhealthy person. On the outside, she looks unhealthy: she always looks tired and dishevelled, unless she takes the time to do her make-up. In which case, she still looks kinda unhealthy because she's put ten layers of make-up on her face. On the inside, we know that she's extremely unhealthy. Despite the fact that she's 37, she clings on to her high school ideals for dear life, in the hope that she'll be able to return to her glory days. She thinks that everyone still loves her, even though as everyone has grown up around her, they realise how nothing that happened at high school matters any more. Her plight to get Buddy back is slightly disturbing. Mavis is deluded by the idea that she and Buddy were meant to be together, even though their relationship ended a long time ago, and since then she's had an unsuccessful marriage and he has had a successful one. She's convinced that Buddy is unhappy and trapped in his life as a new father. If he was the same as he was, then maybe he would have been unhappy. But Buddy grew up...Mavis didn't.
What we're constantly shown is this character that is stuck in the past. It is so clear to see when Mavis returns to Mercury and the way people act around her. She was the bitch that everyone hated in high school (but somehow they all liked her because she was popular...I've never got how that worked). She still is that bitch. Yet, everyone in Mercury has grown up and moved on without Mavis Gary in their minds. When she came back, she didn't seem to matter that much. That is best shown by the character of Matt (Patton Oswalt), a boy who was severely bullied in high school, to the point that he was beaten up by the popular boys because they thought he was gay. Matt probably would have been terrified of her back in high school, but now he's grown up, he's learnt not to care about the Mavis Gary he knew. She's exactly the same, yet he doesn't think much of it. Matt is the complete opposite to Mavis: he has his own problems, but he doesn't whine about them all that much. He's a kind-hearted person. He's also the only person who shows her any kindness in Mercury, agreeing to go and get drunk with her, and give her a bit of an insight into what people really thought of her, and why her situation isn't so bad. She's looking for a pity party, but doesn't deserve one. He deserves a pity party, but doesn't look for one. He highlights everything that's bad about Mavis' personality, and attempts to make good out of them.
If there's one thing I didn't like about Young Adult, it was the fact that the revelation about Mavis came too thick and too fast. We are left wondering about Mavis' sanity for a long time, yet the revelation seems to come at a really odd time and it's execution seems a little off-kilter. However, Young Adult is a fabulous film that observes more failings in society and people than you could imagine. Diablo Cody's script is rather funny, but also kinda sad, which makes for an interesting experience. I do have to wonder why this film didn't get much attention, especially compared to Jason Reitman's last three films. Reitman is a wonderful director, capable of making his own brand of eclectic, interesting films, and while this isn't my favourite film of his, it is a worthy part of his filmography. One thing I really don't understand is how in hell Charlize Theron didn't get nominated for an Oscar for her performance. Her performance was literally out of this world. Perhaps her character was unconventional Oscar material, but if people just looked at her performance, she could have won. Also great is Patton Oswalt, who delivers a heart-breaking, yet extremely funny performance as Matt. Both of these actors are at the top of their game, giving us laughs and maybe tears - which is something that not many people can easily do.
Young Adult is an extremely entertaining look at one of the best written characters from the past year. The more I think about Mavis the more I like about this movie. And about what life is going to be like once high school is over and done with.
What I got: