Young Adult

YOUNG ADULT. Starring Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson and Patton Oswalt.  Directed by Jason Reitman. 90 minutes. Rated MA 15+ (Strong coarse language).

Don’t be looking for a young adult in this wry comedy drama.  Young Adult is a book industry term for the  niche market for novels that appeal to young adults.  Charlize Theron plays Mavis, an author of a series that has been popular but has run its course. Of course, the more we get to know her, we realise that she has not really grown up and is the equivalent of a young adult.  And when she decides to take her life in hand (most unsuccessfully), she makes it the equivalent of the novel that she is trying to finish at the same time.

Mavis is divorced but has idolised her high school boyfriend, Buddy (Patrick Wilson).  Impulsively, after she has received an email that he and his wife have had a baby, she goes back home to snare him because she believes he really loves her.  As we discover, Matt is a fairly simple soul, in love with his wife and bewildered by Mavis’ heavy handed behaviour.  It has to blow up – and it does, at a gathering to celebrate the baby, more than a moment of humiliation for Mavis.

When she arrived back at the town where she grew up, she had encountered Matt, a crippled man, at the bar.  Eventually, she recognises him as the boy everyone picked on, tagging him as gay.  A group of boys have ensured that he is disabled for life. But he works at a diner, has a shed where he makes things, lives with his sister – and has quite some heart to hearts with Mavis.  He is played well by Patton Oswalt.

The film is a collaboration between writer, Diablo Cody, and director, Jason Reitman (who were responsible for the well received portrait of teenage love and angst, Juno).  Had Juno not faced her life and responsibilities, she might have finished up like Mavis.  Diablo Cody writes some sharp lines with touches of ironic humour.  Reitman has a flair for this type of comedy, having directed Thank You for Smoking and Up in the Air as well.

This is an American portrait, a picture of a loser who, when completely humiliated and disabused of her fantasies, might make a go of life – but it will be hard going.  The film has a strong performance by Charlize Theron.

Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.


Out January 19, 2012.