This slow burning comedy starring Charlize Theron is probably raised to a higher level by her performance alone. It is a reunion of sorts between director Jason Reftman and writer Diablo Cody who previously collaborated on Juno. Young Adult has the same qualities which made that 2007 film such a success-and an ittitant to others- but unfortunately it also tries to be a little too clever for its own good with its quirky odd ball characterisations and pacing which slow things down, on occasion, just a little too much. It is a film which only comes to life once the twisted mindset of Theron’s character Mavis Gary hovers into view allowing us to see how disturbed and delusional she really is.
Once the first twenty minutes are out the way-and they are a long uneventful twenty minutes-things improve dramatically and Theron steps matters up several notches with her portrayal of Mavis, a late thirty-something writer, who after a divorce sets her sights on her small town teenage sweetheart after news reaches her he has recently had a daughter with his wife. Convincing herself he is unhappy and bound to be pining for her Mavis temporarily abandons her Minneapolis home, life and career in pursuit of the unaware and disinterested object of her obsessive affections and desires. Her behaviour reaches alcohol induced highs and morally ambiguous lows all delivered with deadpan chutzpah and throughout we wonder how she is getting away with such intolerable and frankly rude actions.
The matter becomes clear near the films end where it is revealed that the films other characters are hiding behind the façade of pleasant manners which mask their pity, horror and true feelings for the woman who is quite clearly having some sort of emotional crisis. This comes as quite a relief as up to that point it is unconvincing as to why anyone would tolerate such outlandish tactics and basic rudeness to such an extent as Mavis emerges as a character with very few redeeming qualities. It are these outlandish but understated qualities which drives the narrative however and we want to see Mavis push things a little further if only to see how far she can go before chipping through the veneer of social obsequiousness.
This film essentially belongs to Theron as a weaker less sympathetic performance would probably render the film a little flat. As it is she manages to make it an engaging and, at times, very amusing study into self delusion and turns in a performance which ranks along the years best.