The primary selling point behind this snarky, anarchic, relationship comedy is that it reteams writer Diablo Cody and director by Jason Reitman, the same duo who brought us the hit film Juno. Everyone loved that film, and while Cody took home the Oscar Ellen Page was definitely the best part; the titular character of Juno seemed tailor-made for her and she really knew how to deliver the sarcastic, ultra-witty and precocious dialogue the role provided. The story of a teenaged girl who got pregnant and then decided to carry the baby to term before giving it up for adoption was also a unique and touching tale.
Given that, expectations for Young Adult were high, at least with regards to the story and now trademark Cody dialogue. The trailer looked funny – Charlize Theron had never done this type of film before, and it would be interesting to see her attempt at an immature bitch. Charlize is Mavis Gary and the film opens with her lazy single life in a messy high-rise apartment. She's a slob, has a tiny dog, and her life is quite shallow and meaningless. Mavis is a writer of a young adult series, and is likely quite good at it because she is stuck in her own state of permanent young adulthood, at least in terms of high school mean-girl bitchiness.
Mavis goes on dates with guys she couldn't care less about getting to know. When her date mentions he spent a year living and volunteering in Southeast Asia, her reaction is a horrified, “Oh, that must have been horrible for you!” Of course, she sleeps with him anyway. Mavis tells her friend she feels bad for others with families and children, because they're so tied down, while she and her friend are living the life because they're free. Then one day she gets an e-mail baby announcement – from her ex-boyfriend.
Pre-occupied with the baby announcement and the picture of the baby sent with it, she packs a bag, jumps in her mini, and heads for her hometown – a tiny, depressing berg in Minnesota whose highlights are a KFC and Taco Bell in the same building. Mavis is determined to reunite with her ex, Buddy, even though he is married and has just become a father. She's convinced herself (and tries to convince everyone else) that he is miserable and would run away with her given the chance. It soon becomes clear that Mavis has a huge drinking problem, as well as a host of other issues. Buddy is a nice but dumb guy who seems clueless to Mavis' true motives for getting back in touch. His wife is a pretty down-to-earth woman who welcomes Mavis into their home, and doesn't seem threatened by her obnoxious home wrecker tactics.
So-far, so Diablo Cody, and yet you find yourself waiting for something…more. Mavis' intentions are despicable – they become her sole focus, and yet no one seems to actually notice them. Finally, we learn why Mavis is hung up on her ex and why she is in her perpetual state of 'young adulthood'. Mavis has a public meltdown, crying and screaming about what went wrong. What you are expecting next is a change – for the better, right? Obviously, Mavis should move on, grow up and start living a more authentic life.
Instead Mavis receives a reaffirmation of just how amazing she is, and how everyone from her hometown sucks. This was the frame of mind Mavis was in at the beginning of the film, and what her time spent in her hometown was supposed to undo. Yet, Mavis buys in, shockingly, and leaves her hometown apparently with the same delusions she came with. What exactly, we might ask, was the point, then?