Watched Jun 26, 2012
Decided to give this film a look after recently reading some rather promising reviews of it. I vaguely remember it being advertised in my local cinema and have absolutely no memory of its actual release. It would appear I would not be alone here judging by the film's less than stellar takings. However there is a lot to admire in this film that warrants it getting a closer look.
Charlize Theron plays Mavis, a 37 year old ghost writer for a popular young adult book series (interestingly styled almost identically to the Sweet Valley High books - a nod to Cody's affiliation with the revamp of the franchise). Mavis, former darling of high school, feels her best days are behind her and through the haze of alcohol and Kardashian re-runs, she hatches a plan to win back her newly married high school boyfriend and turn her life around.
Theron is terrific in this role. It would be only too easy to play Mavis as a drunken caricature but instead she plays her quite subtly. Theron manages to portray the devastating effects Mavis's depression is having on her and shows the darker aspects of her character without the need for any drastic make-unders. Her unlikely alliance with Oswalt's Matt seems a little forced at first but quickly becomes the necessary heart to ground the film. Through Matt, Mavis has a someone who is not afraid to tell her when she's going too far and their scenes together are some of the best and most touching in the film.
These scenes are all the more necessary, as 'heart' is something this film lacks in abundance. Although it's easy to laugh at Mavis as she drunkenly stumbles from one disastrous situation to the next, it's difficult to identify with her, or even to like her. As the majority of her misfortunes are self-inflicted there's only so much sympathy an audience can provide. Add that to the muddled ending, when any lessons we think are being learned are suddenly questioned, and you have a film that does not seem to quite know where it fits.
The failure of Young Adult to set box office alight has less to do with the film itself and more to do with its disastrous marketing. The poster makes it look like something out of the Apatow cannon which could not be further from the truth. Young Adult is a slow burner; a similar pacing to 'Juno' but with a far darker protagonist and outlook. Despite a somewhat confused sense of what it wants to get across, it is a solid film with some great one liners. Worth a look for Theron alone.