AS IF the 2012 Oscars race wasn’t close enough, in leaps Charlize Theron to vigorously shake things up – and potentially provide a major upset on the night.
Here, the Oscar-winning star of MONSTER – back after a three-year hiatus, with a string of major releases up her sleeve – knocks the ball out of the park, in this potty-mouthed tragi-comedy from the team behind JUNO (and the director of UP IN THE AIR and THANK YOU FOR SMOKING).
Oozing disdain and foul-mouthed one-liners, the South African-born beauty is in her element as Mavis Gary: a former prom queen turned teen-fiction ghost writer, who returns to her rural Minnesota home to reclaim a high-school sweetheart, some 20 years on. Mavis is a self-obsessed, big-city girl with little time for anyone but her former jock beau, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). He, though, is a happily married father-of-two. Can her do-or-die mission to bounce back from a recent divorce possibly succeed?
Joining her for a jaw-dropping, homecoming-from-hell is the podgy Matt (Patton Oswalt), who becomes an unlikely drinking buddy. He hasn’t recovered from a brutal incident from school days, which has left him disabled, while Mavis is anything but the stable, confident girl she once was at Mercury High.
Director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody play a neat game with our emotions here. Initially, we grow to loathe the girl who never grew up, only to then feel a shred of sympathy as her unfulfilled life unravels. But then, just as Mavis appears to be approaching some grand awakening, a typically barbed line (to Matt’s fawning sister) suggests she is beyond redemption.
YOUNG ADULT – referring to the genre of Mavis’s books, and where they sit, unsold, in books stores – is the antithesis of JUNO, with an emotionally stunted thirtysomething balancing precariously on the precipice of sanity (and socially acceptable behaviour).
Theron is a riot in the role, where she gets to flex her comedic chops far beyond anything we’ve seen her do before. As a gloriously dark ode to the decade that gave us grunge and scrunchies, it’s a wickedly guilty pleasure. For Theron, it’s her most daring performance yet.
Critical Rating: 9/10.
YOUNG ADULT is in cinemas from Thursday.
First published in The Sun-Herald.