Charlize Theron is an immensely gifted performer but she sure picks miserable roles to play sometimes. Her latest here, as 37-year-old children's author Mavis Gary is no exception. Based in Minneapolis she lives a single gal's existence of one-night stands, junk food and copious amount of alcohol. She receives an email from the wife of her former college boyfriend Buddy (Wilson) stating that they've become parents for the first time. This prompts Mavis to go back to her old hometown and regain contact with her ex. She embarks on a single-minded mission to reclaim him and take him away from his loving family.
On arriving in the town of Mercury she also hooks up with old high school acquaintance Matt (Oswalt), a sweet natured, overweight geek who's cruelly crippled. He tries to instill some reality in her but she is too determined to pursue Buddy to see what's really going on around her. She avoids contact with her parents, gets drunk regularly and dolls herself up when snatching shared moments with Buddy.
It's a superb portrait of a lonely woman adrift and coming apart at the seams but the narrative isn't all doom and gloom. It's actually very funny in places – the pain of humiliation whereby you're laughing at and horrified by her behaviour at the same time. Writer Cody obviously cares about her protagonists, and instills a real feeling of small town community among the supporting characters.
The performances are terrific with everyone playing off each other with a natural style and rhythm. You fully believe the inhabitants have lived here all their lives, and Theron is wonderful at causing the utmost awkwardness in being the unwelcome interloper. Oswalt is equally fine as the shoulder for Mavis to cry on while Wilson and Reaser are very likeable as the married couple dealing with her unwanted attentions.There's no great momentum to the storyline. It ambles up on you, slowly drawing you in in its own sly way. It's a quality affair to be sure, but perhaps a little too shy and nuanced to be heard above more aggressive fare. Young Adult doesn't shout or make a fuss of itself. It's a perfectly done miniature, impeccable in fact, and well worth a look.
EXTRAS ★★★ An audio commentary with director Reitman, DOP Eric Steelberg and associate producer Jason Blumenfeld; Misery Loves Company: The Making of Young Adult (17:27); The Awful Truth: Deconstructing a Scene (6:23), with writer Cody; A Q&A with New York Times film critic Janet Maslin and director Reitman at the Jacob Burns Film Centre in Pleasantville, New York (46:05); six deleted scenes (7:01).