Sunday, December 18, 2011

Adults only

For those of you expecting Diablo Cody's latest to be all clever catchphrases and indie music like Juno or Jennifer's Body, you are either going to be very delighted or very disappointed. Although the trailer plays up the movie's darkly comic bits and pairs them with a bouncy indie song, Young Adult is a viscerally disturbing, squirm inducing movie.

Zee Germans, in fact, have a word for this: fremdschaemen, which describes the feeling you get when you're vicariously embarrassed for someone else. Well, Young Adult is about ninety minutes of unrelenting fremdschaemen.

Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), a ghost-writer for a Sweet Valley High-esque young adult series lives a hollow, booze-soaked life in a bland high-rise in Minneapolis with her Pomeranian, Dolce, until she gets invited to her high school sweetheart's first child's naming ceremony. Mavis was a queen bee in high school, but it's been downhill for her since then.

Convinced that she and former beau Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) are meant to be together, Mavis packs up her dog and her hair extensions and heads back to Mercury, Minnesota to get Buddy back. Brittle Mavis has persuaded herself that everyone she's left behind is miserable - and sometimes she's right - but affable Buddy and his wife seem genuinely happy, which throws a wrench in Mavis' plan. Mavis has much more in common with Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), a former classmate who was badly beaten in high school.

Theron's trichotillomaniac Mavis absolutely carries this movie. She's a vile, mean-tempered alcoholic barely masking a pit of desperation and bitterness, but she's also weirdly endearing, especially in scenes with the excellent Oswalt, with whom she really has much more in common with than Buddy.

This movie really isn't very funny, and the humor that is there is very, very dark. But it's impossible to look away as Mavis slowly implodes on the screen as her layers of denial start to flake away, in an awful, squirming, watching-through-your-fingers kind of way.

5 comments:

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  2. HOLY CRAP! How did you know about my weird obsession with my hair falling out, loong? Do you have some kind of Internet psychic powers?! I shall certainly procure your finest "extentions" and attempt to maintain them on.

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  3. LOL - what is beautiful hait? I'm sure it is amazing!

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  4. I was going to comment about how this movie seemed to reduce people to their one traumatic experience, but instead I think I need to do some last-minute Christmas shopping for wigs and hair extensions.

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  5. Mark - Definitely! Extensions for everyone this holiday!! Extensions wrapped in bows made out of fake hair, in a stocking sewn out of a wig!

    This reminds me of the really sort of disconcerting Bumble and bumble gift sets Sephora was pushing for Christmas, with silkscreened human hair bow packaging. It was less chic and more Silence of the Lambs.

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