Young Adult, written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno) and directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air), features Charlize Theron as Mavis, one of the most thoroughly unlikable characters in recent memory. That and its refusal to follow the formula of most comedies of its ilk, is what makes it so special. Mavis is trying to steal back an old boyfriend from high school (Patrick Wilson) right at the moment his wife has delivered a newborn baby.
Mavis writes a series of books for young adults, and maybe she’s so good at that because she’s never actually escaped high school herself. Theron’s character is self-obsessed and downright hilarious. Blissfully unaware of her own contradictions but fully aware of her beauty and status, she talks like she’s in the girls’ locker room no matter where she is.
Luckily, Patton Oswalt is on hand to be Mavis’ sympathetic foil. His presence helps ease the pain of watching Mavis do horrible things and being privy to her selfish inner monologue. That doesn’t mean that he’s not a tortured soul who is capable of dwelling in his own dark places as well. As a bullied former classmate of Mavis, he’s the least likely person for her to relate to, yet the two of them form a bond, whether Mavis wants to admit it or not.
Both actors commit fully to their roles, and their underlying desperation keeps Young Adult from becoming a one-note sketch. In fact, Young Adult is the most brutally funny movie of the year — a truly fearless and subversive joy from start to finish. The movie opens in wide release next weekend.