Films Of 2012 - No. 4
Young Adult (Dir. Jason Reitman)
Spoiler Warning: The film's ending is not discussed in detail, but it is mentioned.
“Psychotic Prom Queen Bitch.” This is how one character describes Mavis Gary, but high school was a long a time ago and everyone else has grown up.
With her series of moderately popular young adult novels coming to an end, Mavis learns that her high school boyfriend Buddy is now married and has a newborn baby. She jumps at this chance to return to her hometown with the sole intention of reclaiming Buddy from his “torment” and kick starting her own life.
Charlize Theron is outstanding as the mean spirited and stunted Mavis, in easily one of my favourite performances of the year. As a writer of novels for teenage girls, she can’t escape her teenage years where she was adored and looked down on the people who now have everything she wants. Other films would let the nerds get revenge on the high school bitch or allow the prom queen to atone for her mistakes. Young Adult succeeds by doing neither.
The film gradually adds layers to Mavis’ character traits which give us an insight as to how she ended up being so hateful. Patton Oswalt plays Matt who tries to reign in Mavis’ wild ideas and acts as the audience’s conscience. Like Mavis, Matt is an adult defined by his teenage years where he was the victim of a hate crime attack which has left him disabled. The two characters form a strange bond which is both tragic and impossible to take your eyes off.
Young Adult pulls off its unconventional tale thanks to 100% confidence and belief in the project from writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman. The gut punch of an ending is in keeping with the film’s dark, sardonic tone and gives a happy outlook to one of the most detestable protagonists in modern cinema.