Seeing 2011’s Young Adult now, from the prospective of 2018, it seems that writer Diablo Cody wrote an allegory for the disconnected young adults of today.
Young Adult most likely wasn’t meant to be about how the internet has turned people into automatons who stare at screens all day and don’t have any actual human relationships. It was meant to be a very specific story about one 37 year old woman named Mavis (Charlize Theron) and how she curated her public life like a series of Facebook posts.
Mavis ghost writes for a series of young adult novels. She’s wrecked from drink and dissolution and can’t write. She has a deadline on Friday. She’s recently divorced. She develops the fixation that her old high school boyfriend Buddy (Patrick Wilson) is just what she needs.
If she wants Buddy, he must want her, too, right? She’s beautiful. She’s an author. She’s lives in the big city. Everyone thinks she’s on top of the world. In Marvis’ mind, Buddy is languishing away in small town hell waiting for her to come back and save him. She packs her dog and some clothes, jumps in her car, and heads out of Minneapolis for her old home town of Mercury, Minnesota.
Buddy and his wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser) have a new baby girl. Buddy and Beth are happy with life and with each other. Mavis is nothing more than a high school memory.
Mavis can’t see the truth. She’s like Rebecca from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. She imagines that he wants her as much as she wants him. She makes a pathetic ass of herself trying to prove it.
Matt (Patton Oswalt) becomes her confidant. She barely remembers him from high school. She only remembers him because he was beaten almost to death by a gang of popular boys who thought he was gay. Now Matt walks with a crutch and lives with his sister. He is willing to drink with Mavis and listen to her madness.
Matt is the only person who tells Mavis the truth. She doesn’t hear it, but he says it. Patton Oswalt gave a brilliant performance in Young Adult. He’s the perfect foil for Charlize Theron’s tall, beautiful, broken, bitter, overgrown adolescent. Oswalt makes the movie work.
Mavis drinks. And drinks. And drinks. Matt can’t keep up. Nobody could keep up. She avoids her parents and stays in a motel. Only two times in the entire movie does she approach reality, and then with just a glance at it. At one point she says she thinks she’s an alcoholic. At another point she announces, “I’m crazy.” But she can’t hold onto those ideas.
Not with Buddy out there waiting to be saved from the prison of his beautiful baby girl and kindhearted wife.
The wonderful paradox of Young Adult is that the folks back in the old home town have grown into real adults. They are living interconnected lives and doing pretty well. The beautiful homecoming queen who escaped to the big city is disconnected from her own life and from reality – even though she looks perfect from the outside. Charlize Theron was a perfect choice to play Mavis.
Jason Reitman directed Young Adult. Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody worked together in 2007 on Juno. They’ve since worked together on 2018’s Tully, teaming up with Charlize Theron again for it. They are a winning combination of witty insightful writing and excellent directing.
Most likely because Tully is just now out in theaters, Young Adult has reached Amazon Video as a currently available streaming movie. It hits hard. It isn’t a happy movie, but if you like Charlize Theron (and who doesn’t) and appreciate Diablo Cody’s way with a story, you’ll appreciate it.