Film: Young Adult

The latest collaboration between director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody, Young Adult (2011) is a sure-handed dark comedy, anchored by a hilariously unsympathetic lead performance from Charlize Theron. She plays Mavis Gary, a highly successful young adult writer who’s stirred from her hollow, upscale urban existence in Minneapolis by an email from an old flame. Her high school boyfriend Buddy (Patrick Wilson) is now married and expecting his first child, news that triggers a desperate nostalgia response in Mavis, who travels back to her rural Minnesota hometown to rekindle her glory days and win Buddy back.

Young Adult isn’t particularly deep, but it’s deftly executed stuff, boasting both Cody’s distinctively clever voice and Reitman’s smooth, witty direction. Theron is terrific enacting a reluctantly aging “popular girl” stereotype, obnoxiously judgemental, superior, and self unaware. She’s matched line-for-line by Patton Oswalt, who is funny and memorable as lovable loser Matt Freehauf, a high school classmate she barely remembers despite years of being locker neighbors. They share an unlikely chemistry, which — combined with Cody’s cynical, amusing message — helps the film click along effortlessly to a refreshingly, unexpectedly realistic conclusion. Slick, facile, and fun.

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