Chromeo at the Commodore Ballroom Vancouver 2014

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Chromeo at the Commodore Ballroom

The Come Alive Tour hits Vancouver April 15 2014. Kirk Chantraine photos.

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Charlize Theron makes a great mean girl

Charlize Theron is Mavis Gary, an author of young adult novels in a new dark comedy.

Movie review – Young Adult

- by Rachel Fox

After the success of their pop-culture touchstone Juno, director Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking, Up in the Air) and Academy Award winning screenwriter Diablo Cody have re-teamed for the dark comedy Young Adult. The new movie might seem like familiar territory and some may presume it to be something of a sequel to Juno, a film was about a charmingly adorable, precocious teenaged girl faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

Young Adult is anything but.

Movie trailer – Young Adult:

Charlize Theron (Monster) plays Mavis Gary, an outwardly successful, beautiful yet terminally sour author of young adult novels. Upon learning that her ex-high school boyfriend Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) has just had a daughter, Mavis decides to make the trek home to her small Minnesota town armed with the  fantastically juvenile notion that by reintroducing herself back into his life, she can disrupt it enough to “win him back.”

The object of affection: Patrick Wilson.

On Mavis’ first night home, she is re-acquainted with Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt, whom we interviewed after he won the Best Supporting Actor Award from the Whistler Film Festival for his role in Young Adult), who shared a locker beside her for the duration of their high school career, but whom she only vaguely remembers as “the theatre fag” who was so severely beaten by bullies for being gay (he isn’t) that he was left walking with a cane and “peeing sideways.”

The former high school princess and the overweight nerdy guy who lives in his parent’s basement strike up a kinship, wherein Matt effectively operates as the voice of logic, reason, and conscience that eludes the narcissistic Mavis.

Actor Patton Oswalt accepts his award for Best Supporting Actor from the Whistler Film Festival. Rachel Fox photo.

Young Adult is, more than anything, a hilarious yet upsetting (for me, anyway) character study that successfully manages to point a shrewd finger at both society and the individual. Diablo’s Mavis is an effective embodiment of our current culture’s obsession with youth, beauty, and much of the vapid emptiness that goes hand-in-hand with consumptive excess; the film features none-too-subtle footage of the phenomenally loathsome Kardashian klan.

The most uncomfortable and awkward moments of the film are also the most telling, and are frequently also the ones lacking in the kind of staccato Cody-isms that so heavily punctuate her previous work.

Movie clip – Young Adult

Despite her outward appearance, Mavis wakes up from booze-induced blackouts surrounded by chaos and filth in her apartment, alone except for her designer lapdog (named “Dolce,” obviously). Riddled with anxiety, Mavis pulls her hair to the point that she is forced to wear extensions to cover the damage. When Mavis does eat, it is alone in a fast food restaurant with her back to the world, her tray piled high. We are privy to several montages of Mavis’ intricate beauty routine, concealing herself beneath a heavy armour of foundation, lipstick, and eyeshadow in order that she may face the world in the way she feels it deserves to see her.

Mavis is the classic Mean Girl, albeit one who has never grown up. Rather, she has chosen to exist in a terminal state of superficial selfishness, her beautifully coiffed head terminally stranded in a cloud of adolescent thinking and Elnette hairspray.

Mavis (Charlize Theron) and Beth (Elizabeth Reaser) in one of the more awkward scenes of Young Adult. (Truth: I had to look away.)

Mavis’ interactions with people provide many of Young Adult‘s more unsettling moments; Theron’s convincing Queen Bee bitchiness walks a taut line that offers laughs and insight yet, to the actress’s credit. no chance for an audience to sympathize. When Mavis tags along to Buddy’s wife Beth’s (Elizabeth Reaser) rag-tag “mom band” (the awesomely named Nipple Confusion) at the local watering hole one night, we glimpse the woman Mavis’s exalted ex-beau has happily settled on: a cooler (she’s the drummer in a rock band playing the same tracks Mavis sings to in her car), happier (she is married with a baby, after all), kinder (she works with special needs children – hard to compete with that), and ultimately grown-up version of Mavis.

Despite Matt’s intimate knowledge of just how cold and callow Mavis actually is, he asks, ‘Why can’t girls like you ever fall for guys like me?’ The truth of the moment is painfully clear; at some point the subjects of our youthful, misdirected idealization are eventually meant to diverge from our life’s reality. It’s called maturity, and it takes an adult to realize that.

One response to “Charlize Theron makes a great mean girl

  1. 2 years ago  

    Theron gives a terrific performance. She elevates the movie by demonstrating her versatility. She almost makes you feel sympathetic towards this blonde, beautiful and sharp-witted anti-heroine. Oswalt deserves consideration for supporting actor as well. Great review. Check out whenever you get the chance.

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