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IN SHORT: Just OK. [Rated R for language and some sexual content. 94 minutes]
There is an interesting quote from writer Diablo Cody to be found in her IMDB bio. It reads: "The attitude toward women in this industry is nauseating. There are all sorts of porcine executives who are uncomfortable with a woman doing anything subversive. They want the movie about the beautiful girl who trips and falls, the adorable klutz." In Young Adult, with the aid of director Jason Reitman (director of Cody's Oscar winning script of Juno), Cody presents a beautiful girl who is anything but a klutz. Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a beautiful 37 year old woman whose lifestyle balances her alcoholic, emotional wreck of a life with a very successful career as writer of a successful series of novels for young girls. Her books rehash the events of her the high school years, when she was top dog of the universe. Mavis' success has made her the envy of all the people she left behind in Mercury, Minnesota, for the big city of Minneapolis.
Looks, of course, can be deceiving.
We all have times in our lives where "everything" fires on all cylinders. The job is good. The love life is good. The friends are good. Everything is good. The sad part of the equation is that, in Mavis' case, that time came at the end of high school. The perfect high school/post high school relationship, for Mavis, ended in a tragedy we won't go into. A marriage that followed, failed. Mavis has made a successful career writing novels for young girls, in the voice of a teenager (or maybe tweens. Who can follow the labels anymore...?) Mavis has been successful because, well, she hasn't left high school behind. She plays at being an adult. She dates age appropriate, impressive men. She gets all the good times she want to give but, more than not, Mavis spends her evening in a local bar, drinking herself into a stupor.
When Mavis gets an emailed birth announcement from Beth Slade (Elizabeth Reaser), wife of her childhood sweetheart, Buddy (Patrick Wilson), she heads home to rescue her once beloved from the bonds of matrimony and new fatherhood. Before she can begin her "rescue mission," Mavis crosses paths with another childhood acquaintance -- actually the guy who had the locker next to hers; the boy she never paid any attention to at all, Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt). Matt was crippled as part of a hate crime attack which in the perverse world of high school, branded him with the nickname "hate crime." In Matt's case, the high school jocks, thinking he was gay, beat him senseless, crushing his legs and breaking his pelvis. The grown up Matt lives in sister Sandra's (Colette Wolfe) house, combining action figure models into distorted new figures and distilling his own brand of bourbon in a still in the garage.
Mavis remembers almost nothing of her high school "experiences" with Matt, who hasn’t quite gotten over high school, either. Still, he is usually available to get drunk with, even if he does tend to show up in places where Mavis really wants to be alone with anyone but Matt. As in a public restaurant where she gets Buddy to show up, solo, for drinks. You can almost see the wheels turning in her head as she sets in motion her plan to wean Buddy off of his blissful suburban family life.
Which brings us to the Third Act of Diablo Cody's story where everything hits the fan. A deliberately slow paced set up virtually explodes on the big screen -- you'll thank us for not telling you what happens, other than that it involves both the Slade family and Mavis' own parental units. It is a bang-up ending. The only problem is that getting to it requires sitting quietly for the first hour or so of a difficult set up.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Young Adult, he would have paid . . .
Young Adult is a film for us grown ups. It comes at a time of year where it is expected that some critic somewhere will start writing sentences with the word "Oscar" in it. Not us. We will note that, while all the attention will focus on Ms. Theron, we think it is better targeted at Mr. Oswalt.
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