By Don Simpson | December 8, 2011
Writer: Diablo Cody
Starring: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser, Collette Wolfe, Jill Eikenberry, Richard Bekins, Mary Beth Hurt, Kate Nowlin
Meet Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), a horrible person whose life is falling apart. First and foremost, her career as a ghost writer for a young adult serial has come to an abrupt end. Oh, and she is also divorced. So, in order to restart her seemingly failed life, Mavis leaves Minneapolis to visit Mercury, the hick suburban hellhole of a town where she grew up. Essentially, Mavis wants to relive her teenage years when she presumably listened to Teenage Fanclub’s “The Concept” on repeat, was the most popular girl in high school, and dated Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). Sure, Buddy is happily married — he recently had a baby with his wife, Beth (Elizabeth Reaser) — but that does not stop Mavis from trying to win Buddy back. (Oh, Mavis! Will you never learn that men are not prizes to be competed for and won?)
Mavis’ entire trip to Mercury is spent in an alcohol-fueled stupor. Out of lonely desperation, Mavis befriends Matt (Patton Oswalt) the crippled “hate crime kid” from high school. Matt seems to have no problems with helping Mavis remain drunk ad nauseum, because a frumpy comic geek like him is powerless when faced with Mavis’ natural beauty. Besides, we can only assume that Matt is holding out hope that Mavis will become drunk enough for a good old-fashioned sympathy fuck.
Um… Yeah… Okay… Well, I have got to say, Young Adult truly left me speechless. That is not true, actually, because I am left with a hell of a lot of questions. What the fuck did I just watch? Why did I just watch it? Why would Diablo Cody write this script? Why would Jason Reitman direct it? Why would Charlize Theron take this role? And can you please repeat your answer to why I just watched it? Well, no matter what your answer is, can I please have those 94 minutes of my life back?
I am not sure if Cody and Reitman want the audience to hate Mavis, feel sorry for her, laugh at her, or like her — all I know is that I felt absolutely nothing. Was I really supposed to feel something for this ex-prom queen who is in the midst of a cartoonishly absurd existential crisis? Mavis’ beauty, bitchiness and patheticness all seem to just cancel each other out. In the end, Mavis is just cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, pure and simple; in other words, she is like a shallowly written cartoon buffoon. Immediately after the two or three times that I laughed during Young Adult, I immediately thought about what I had just laughed at and felt really disgusted with myself. Young Adult left me feeling really, really dirty; as if I just watched something that I should have never ever borne witness to.
Additionally, since Young Adult is written from Mavis’ perspective that presumably gives the film an excuse to be brutally condescending and patronizing towards the populace of the quaint Minnesota town. Everyone in Mercury is presumed to be a simple-minded hick with no goals or aspirations; you know, because all of the smart and ambitious people relocated to the Mini-Apple (Minneapolis). Young Adult is essentially just a vehicle for Cody to exercise her utter disdain for the strip mall culture of middle America. Trust me, I do not like returning to the strip malls and chain restaurants of the suburban town where I grew up either — I moved away for a good reason, because I did not belong there. It is not the population of my hometown’s fault that I have very little in common with them; but in the case of Young Adult, it seems as though Cody is blaming everything (especially Mavis’ penchant for booze) on the people of Mercury and it is this holier than thou tone that will keep me from watching Young Adult ever again.