When you have a central character in the film, get up in the morning and drink Coke — first thing — as a matter of habit — you know you’re looking at someone who is different and quirky. So you sit straight up and wait for the quirkiness to unfold further, as you tie your seatbelt and get ready to go on a rocky trip. And boy! Are you rewarded!
Young Adult starring Charlize Theron is one such film. It’s the story of a 37 year old, alcoholic, divorced and depressed ghost writer named Mavis Gray (played by Theron) who writes young adult novels for a living. She lives alone with her dog in Minneapolis and struggles to meat the deadline of writing the last book in the series. When she receives an email from her high school boyfriend Buddy Slade with the picture of his new-born daughter, she is unable to take her eyes off the picture. The image of the new-born baby haunts her and makes her leave Minneapolis and drive back to Mercury, her hometown — in search of lost love.
What unfolds in Mercury and what happens to Mavis — forms the rest of the film and you gotta watch it yourself to uncover.
What I loved:
- The pithy and smart lines Mavis mouths. Whether she’s talking to the receptionist about not possessing a dog — when her dog is clearly zipped inside her handbag; to her honest conversations with her former classmate Matt Freehauf — whom she barely recollects and who was disabled in a hate crime in high school about her delusional belief that Buddy is her soulmate, to her bitchy quips or her insensitive hints to Buddy’s wife about their high school affair — the dialogues in the film are extraordinary. Apt, fresh and original. For example, when Mavis after her showdown at Buddy’s place, visits Matt and asks him, if he loves her? He says, “men like us are born loving women like you.”
- The central character, Mavis Gray. She is a high school beauty queen who believes that her former boyfriend — who’s married and recently become a dad will take her back, once she convinces him of their compatibility. She’s delusional. She’s depressed. She’s alcoholic. And she’s a ghost writer who doesn’t get to sign her books because well, no one knows her and as we find out much later in the film that the book series is not selling anymore. Mavis’s backstory — her divorce and her dislike for her parents (she goes to her hometown but avoids meeting her mom and dad) is cleverly introduced much later in the film. Her diabolical belief that Buddy is hers; her lonely and disturbed persona (she pulls her hair and doesn’t throw the strands away) — she’s quite clearly unaware of — makes the character convincing beyond doubt. This is how brilliantly the screenplay writer Diablo Cody — who won an Academy (Oscar) award for her superb (and debut) script Juno conceived and created the character.
- The supporting cast. Be it Patton Oswalt as Matt Freehauf — the obese, disabled book keeper in the local restaurant who lives with his sister. Or Patrick Wilson as Buddy Slade — the in-love with his wife and daughter, small town straight guy who calls Minneapolis the “little apple”. Or his wife, the drum playing nice, liked-by-all, pretty Beth Slade (played by Elizabeth Reaser), the supporting cast is impressive and only adds to the film in more ways than one.
- The story. It needs guts and conviction to make a film like Young Adult. This is not your usual romance or suspense thriller — the genres Hollywood seems to love for commercial reasons. Yes, this is a coming of age drama. And Hollywood has a fair number of films in this genre. But to take a story of a depressed, delusional, not-so-young and not-so-successful woman writer and make it into a convincing, honest film — is a feat in itself.
That’s why you should watch Young Adult. Because it’s a dark slice of life, so dark and hard-hitting at times that it punches your stomach and leaves you breathless. And trust me, if you haven’t felt that way after watching a film, you haven’t consumed good cinema…yet.