Young Adult stars Charlize Theron as Mavis Gary, a ghostwriter of young adult novels. Mavis lacking in inspiration makes a decision to travel back to her hometown after receiving an invitation to the naming ceremony of her high school sweetheart’s newborn baby. Mavis decides that she must win back her sweetheart Buddy Slade played by Patrick Wilson. Mavis’s attempts to win back Buddy are laughed at by a fellow classmate from her high school Matt Freehauf played with sincerity and class by Patton Oswalt. Matt was the victim of a hate crime that rendered him physically disabled. Mavis will go to any lengths to succeed at her goal and her self-centered attitude is what provides this film with most of its charm.
The self-centered personality of Mavis Gary drives this entire film. I was annoyed in the beginning by Mavis because she is so enamored by the idea of winning her love back. She is foolish and fool hearty and Charlize Theron does a great job at communicating the character’s desperation to have love and acceptance from Buddy. The other dynamic that works surprisingly well is Mavis’s relationship with Matt. Patton Oswalt and Charlize Theron have great chemistry. Patton has this dark humor that basically just states what the audience is thinking about Mavis throughout the film. Throughout the film, Matt becomes increasingly annoyed with the pity party Mavis is throwing for herself and attacks her with a series of verbal jabs. It is in those moments of conversation that I realized Mavis and Matt need each other to balance the issues they have. Matt, though completely independent, uses his disability as crutch for not doing more with his life. I like the idea that both characters have flaws and that one of them can see and acknowledge their flaws while the other fails miserably at doing so and is unapologetic about it as well. This film isn’t as much about growing up as it is a person’s inability to do so.
Young Adult works not because of snappy dialogue and likeable characters, it works for the opposite reason. This film is purposefully bleak and unhappy. Young Adult is the slow motion car crash of the life of Mavis Gary and I couldn’t turn away. I don’t think anyone who sees the film will be able to either.