'Young Adult' Review: Theron Gets Ugly - Again - For Darkly Comic Tale
Charlize Theron is that rare big-screen beauty who’s willing to subvert her looks in order to fully inhabit a difficult character. She did it to play a grotesque real-life killer in the 2003 "Monster" (for which she won an Oscar), and she does it again, in a different way, in "Young Adult," portraying a woman whose ugliness is all on the inside.
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Mavis Gary is a mess, a one-time high-school hottie now going to seed at 37. She’s a best-selling author, sort of (she ghost-writes a series of popular Young Adult novels), but her Minneapolis apartment is a pit, she has a serious bourbon problem, and she chugs Coke for breakfast after waking up next to whichever random lug she happened to bring home the night before.
One day Mavis gets a blast email announcing the birth of a baby, adorable photo attached. It’s from Buddy Slade, her old high school boyfriend. High school was 20 years ago, but Mavis remembers it—and Buddy—fondly: She wasn’t a mess then. Giving the matter some self-centered thought, she decides that Buddy is the guy she was meant to be with. He’s still living in their corny hometown, married now, and with the baby, it’s true; but why should that stand in the way of her winning him back?
In "Young Adult," director Jason Reitman and his "Juno" scribe Diablo Cody attempt something tricky. Cody’s story is a deconstruction of that Hollywood staple, the romantic comedy hooked on an idiotic premise. These are the kind of pictures in which a woman desperate for a child has herself artificially inseminated and then discovers that the requisite fluid has been anonymously donated by her adoring best friend. Or two girlfriends discover that their long-planned weddings have been accidentally scheduled at the Plaza Hotel on the very same day. The trailer for "Young Adult" might seem to promise exactly that sort of disposable chuckle fest. But the movie is actually much darker, and more daring.
Read the full review at Reason.com