Director Jason Reitman re-teams with writer Diablo Cody, with whom he made Juno. However, none of the warm fuzziness of that film can be found here. Young Adult is hard, cold and not the most pleasant of watches. Saying all that, it’s wickedly funny.
Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a ghost writer of a popular series of books for teens - the target market being ‘Young Adult’. She is lonely, unfulfilled, and has problems with alcohol. You might say she is sick. Her actions certainly are in this film. She receives an email announcement that her ex-boyfriend, the happily-married Buddy (Patrick Wilson) has become a father. She promptly decides that actually she and him belong together and sets out to get Buddy back. Her mission takes her back to Mercury, the small town in which she reigned as both Prom Queen and Queen Bitch. She strikes up an uneasy friendship with Matt (Patton Oswalt) who was the victim of a vicious hate crime that left him disabled.
Dark stuff, huh. But Reitman has a knack for making gloomy subjects entertaining (the cigarette industry, teenage pregnancy, sacking employees) and with this he doesn’t disappoint. It’s also probably his darkest film to date. As with his previous work, this is smart, script-led film-making that is simultaneously realistic and hilarious. He also has some great visual flourishes without being flashy. The central performance from Theron is startlingly unsympathetic. You’d be hard pushed to find a less likeable lead. As the acid-tongued Mavis, stuck in the past and unwilling to move on, she is brilliant in the role. The rest of the cast is superb; notably Patrick Wilson who always seems on the verge of making it huge yet remains a quietly-respected screen presence, and Patton Oswalt is dryly funny.
It also paints a very believable picture of alcohol abuse. Mavis is not a homeless wino, she's a functioning alcoholic. Albeit a seriously dysfunctional one.