by Jessica Tharaud
4 out of 5 stars
As “Young Adult” begins, it’s immediately clear that it will not be typical movie with likeable characters and happy endings. But the break from the norm creates a movie that mirrors real life, and makes the audience think about its message.
Mavis Gary, played by Charlize Theron, is clearly depressed, alcoholic, and alone. A ghost writer of a popular young adult series who lives in Minneapolis, Gary looks down on her home town of Mercury, Minnesota. When she receives the news that her high school boyfriend had a baby, Gary decides that they were meant to be together and returns to Mercury, determined to win him back.
Theron successfully portrays the delusional Gary, capturing her vulnerability, cruelty, and crazed moments with ease.
“Young Adult” forces the audience to put itself in Gary’s shoes, despising her actions but pitying her. Unlike what is usually shown in movies, the star is imperfect, and she does not find her happy ending through love. The movie lets the audience witness that life does not always go according to plan: that sometimes people get stuck in their past and can’t move on.
The movie also benefits from exceptional writing, with touches of humor added. For example, as Gary hits her rock bottom, her friend’s sister, Sandra, comforts her and convinces her that the people of Mercury are worthless. Sandra asks to return to Minneapolis with Gary, but in a moment of cruel humor, Gary callously rejects the offer, saying that Sandra belongs in Mercury.
“Young Adult” leaves the audience with a mix of hope and disgust for Mavis. Its true success lies in creating a realistic and deeply flawed character who people can identify with and pity.