In a music magazine… sometime ago… a paraphrased quote…
Nostalgia is for someone who’s stopped dreaming.
But if we dream of our past, it’s still dreaming, isn’t it? Time has only marinated these memories so they can gestate and reform. We can start again with the rich loam of our history… we can… wait, that’s not dreaming… that’s deluding ourselves that what happened back then, was so much better back then… and the here and now… well… it’s not so good, but kick-starting the past can make it even better, problem solved… just like we’ve always… dreamed?
A black comedy in the best possible theatre-of-the-uncomfortable fashion, Young Adult gives us Mavis Gary, who is dreaming as she “lives” in Minneapolis, but it’s a festering dream and a festering life. A ghostwriter for a soon to be defunct series of “young adult” books, her television always tuned to trashy reality shows and dialogue for her novels provided by teenagers she eavesdrops on around town, the inner musings of the lead character in these stories are Mavis’ own, as she was that popular, cool girl. Now, eyeliner applied with a Sharpie, sweatpants as a second skin, long suffering pomeranian barking on her patio, she receives a group e-mail from the love-of-her-high-school-life. He’s just had a baby girl. Gears are set in motion. Unfortunately these are the thrown gears and mismatched flywheels of someone in the rut of her 30’s, newly divorced, fisting liters of soda to sit down for a writing session. Empty is the word to describe Mavis. Also conniving, self-centered and delusional as she packs a bag, puts a battered mixtape with “their” song on it in the car stereo and goes home to Mercury, Minnesota to steal her old flame from the dismal, smothering trap of family that, in her mind, he can’t possibly want.
Charlize Theron, as Mavis, is a walking, talking, emotionally misfiring circuit. Patton Oswalt is Matt, an alumnus from the same school as Mavis, crippled from a vicious beating administered by jocks years ago, he lives with his sister, brews his own bourbon and is still locked in the action figure geekery of his youth. His is a still simmering bitterness, but maturity has smoothed some edges. Ignored by Mavis during their school days, when they meet again at an old watering hole, he pulls no punches about the past and her future plans, becoming her devil’s advocate, though a set of more humorless, tone deaf ears, he could never find. Mavis meets with her ex-flame, Buddy (Patrick Wilson), but skips telling her parents she’s come home and she’s too obsessed to be surreptitious with her sneers at Buddy’s wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser), their life and mutual old friends. As this shambles of a homecoming plays out and the Romeo rescue mission collapses around her, a few scraps of lukewarm adulation and a mutual accord reached with Matt provide a touch of compassion, if no real hope,and allow her an exit.
Screenwriter Diablo Cody has pulled it off with dialogue that’s salty but that doesn’t try for one-liners or crass, catchphrase comedy and in Mavis, an unlikeable person who seems to never have had any inner life to speak of, only charisma and selfishness, Theron digs in to show the brittle life support system we may all be guilty of using sometime, in shoring up adult mistakes.
In the recent Tiny Furniture (2010), another young woman, equally as unsympathetic as Mavis, is at a post college turning point and asking “what about me”? She could easily be Mavis ten years on, asking the question again, because it tends to get asked of the world at large when adulthood has delivered you a dust up. Remember to put the emphasis on “about”, give a laugh, ache a little, take up home distillery maybe. [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 3/13/12