I'm a freelance writer living and loving Melbourne
From the writer and director behind the quirky, coming-of-age comedy-slash-drama Juno comes Young Adult – a film that could easily be categorised in the same way, only it's much darker, drunker and the female lead is a 37 year-old divorcee; not 16 and pregnant. Sadly, where Juno was original, funny and warm; Young Adult is formulaic, short on laughs (there are one or two great scenes), and boringly bleak. And while it pains me to say it, it's got nothing to do with the acting and everything to do with the script.
The premise isn't anything new. Enter the jaded career woman from the big city who decides to head home to small town America, where the grand plan is to land her old high school boyfriend who, despite being married, will see that they are meant to live happily every after. The end? Nope, none of the above goes to plan except for the heading home bit. Predictably, the jaded career woman is forced to give up on her delusional plan and in the process, learns a lot about herself.
In Young Adult, Charlize Theron is Mavis Gary (the jaded career woman). Mavis is the ghost writer of a once popular young adult fiction series. Throughout the film, Mavis is trying to finish the last book and as she types away on her keyboard we hear the story of her lead character Kendall Strickland - the prom queen, beauty queen and all-round drama queen of the piece. So, she's basically Mavis 20 years ago. We also hear about Kendall's relationship with her boyfriend, who Mavis admits is based on her old high school boyfriend, and impetus for the entire film, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson).
Weaving together the film plot with the young adult fiction series tells us two important things. Firstly, Mavis has never really grown up because she earns a living writing about young adults still in high school. And secondly, Mavis harbours an unwavering belief that her high school years were her best and most importantly, they represent a time when she was at her best.
Mavis' unlikely partner in crime during her short stay back home is the 'hate crime guy' Matt (Patton Oswalt). The scenes between Matt and Charlize are my hands-down favourites. Theron and Oswalt give their unlikely new friendship a warmth and realism that provides some of the funniest and most poignant parts of the film.
I was excited to see Young Adult and I really, really wanted to (and was sure I would) like this film. It had all the ingredients to be something great but, for me, sadly, it was a big let down.