So, while I thought Juno was just okay, I loved Jason Reitman's Up in the Air. Thusly, I was cautiously optimistic towards Diablo Cody's and Reitman's newest offering. I shouldn't have worried. Young Adult was one of the most brilliantly uncomfortable movies I've seen this year, and it made me laugh and squirm, sometimes at the same time.
Charlize Theron portrays one of the most selfish, disturbed, alcoholic, and pathetic characters that I've seen in a long time. And she completely embraces the role. Mavis Gary is an author of a series of young adult novels whose world shifts when she sees the news that her high school boyfriend and his wife have welcomed a baby girl. Mavis uses this news to make a trip back to her hometown, and, misguidedly, try to win him back.
We, as an audience, know this is crazy. And Mavis' attempts to justify her scheme to Patton Oswalt's Matt Freehauf is met with the incredulity it deserves.
But that is genius of this film. Mavis is a broken woman on the inside, and Matt is a broken man on the outside (which is a pretty brutal story once you hear it). Together they make such a perfect odd couple that you anticipate every night that they get together and just drink themselves into oblivion.
But the whole plot of the film - that Mavis wants to win back her old flame (played solidly by Patrick Wilson), beyond being the driving force of the film, causes an incredible amount of tension. You're never sure if Mavis' mechanicians are going to have any effect, or if they don't, what is her reaction going to be? You know the possibility that something bad happening to any of the characters is right around the corner.
And in spite of all that, the movie is really funny. Every time Mavis speaks you feel uncomfortable, and can't help laughing. She's so acerbic and self-involved that you laugh because, while she can be incredibly mean, she's also simply being true to her self, even if that self is a jerk. There's also a great scene with Mavis' cousin ("the happiest cripple in the world"). And Mavis and Matt bond over the fact that they can't stand him.
Charlize Theron gives one of the best performances of the year, and for as good as she gives, Patton Oswalt gives right back. He continues to build on the amazingness of his Big Fan performance. He's much more than just a comic - he really is an actor. And he's great to watch.
Oh, and that ending is one of the best of the year. You want to scream at the screen, but, at the same time, you're forced to look at things in just a little bit of a different way. And when you do, you may find yourself nodding in agreement to what was said. Not many movies can capture that as well as this one did. This can be a hard movie to watch, but it so worked for me.