Sunday, December 18, 2011
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.