fri 23/08/2019

DVD: Young Adult | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Young Adult

DVD: Young Adult

Charlize Theron has another monster to show us in Jason Reitman's black comedy

Not-so-young adult: Charlize Theron as the irresponsible Mavis

Young Adult is the category of fiction that teenagers read, and it’s where Charlize Theron’s extremely damaged character in this odd film has made her well-rewarded living (albeit as the ghost behind the name on a popular series of “young adult” fiction). In that literary genre teenagers’ love of contorted, messy living and big questions whose answer is likely to be “whatever” makes for frequent critical debates about what’s right, or what matters, and Jason Reitman’s film homes in a prime example of a not-that-young adult who’s never grown up and can't answer any of that.

Mavis Gary is gorgeous, slim and bright, and hails from hick little Mercury where, as one of the locals says, everyone is fat and dumb. So she left for Minneapolis and made something of herself. But at 37 she has a work crisis, a failed marriage, a bottomless capacity for easy sex and Maker’s Mark whisky, and an apparent total absence of conscience. She goes back to Mercury to chase up her (married) high school boyfriend, no matter what collateral damage is called for.

The result is an uneven black comedy in which Mavis’s nihilism and arrested personality is signalled with conspicuous clues: she swigs Diet Coke for breakfast, binges on fast food and booze, she shreds her hair, she notices a chart for special needs kids to help them with emotions, and so on. There are fleeting whiffs of iconic movie manics - Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas, Tippi Hedren in Marni - but also enough that feels real about this girl-woman for a while to be potentially interesting (see another of Reitman's likeable dislikeables, George Clooney in Up in the Air).

The interest doesn’t fully pay out, though. Theron, a fine actress who relishes a meaty character part (famously proved in Monster), perfectly embodies both Mavis’s necessary external beauty and internal chaos. She has first-class support from Patton Oswalt as an unexpected best mate whose own tragedy is as overwritten as Mavis’s is left to us to guess. If in the end this feels like a neat set-up that didn't have a destination in mind, it’s not the actors’ faults.

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Mavis is gorgeous, slim and bright, and hails from hick little Mercury where everyone is fat and dumb

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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