“I would keep all of this to yourself. I would find a therapist.”
While I may not have served my teenage years in an American high school in the mid-west, due to an overabundance of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Glee and all other TV and film related High School tales I feel like I’ve carved a reference point for the character of Mavis (Charlize Theron). Watching Mavis’ existence is the idea you would have if the popular girl from High School got exactly what she wanted: she got to leave the small home town and become an independent woman who got to work what she thought was her dream job.
Sadly now she’s now closer to forty than twenty and she looks around her life and can’t find anything worth caring about. At this juncture she decides to go back home to try and rekindle her High School romance with her boyfriend of yesteryears, Buddy (Patrick Wilson), who’s now happily married and with child.
Isn’t perspective everything? Maybe it’s because I wasn’t the popular one in my younger years but seeing the tormented duration of these few days of Mavis’ life (which I imagine is just a snippet of a much longer tormented life) is deliciously lovely for me. It’s the kind of thing that makes me happy and I know it shouldn’t. Seeing her continue to coast through life as best she can, with how she gleams dialogue from eavesdropping conversations for her book, and continue to believe that the world should revolve around her and whatever cleavage filled top she manages to pick out this afternoon. It’s a lovely exercise in comeuppance.
There are films that exist to take a potentially happy idea and turn it into one of the worst ideas possible, this is a film which begins with the worst idea possible and makes it even more sad. I would ask when depression of this caliber ever became funny, but I found myself laughing too hard to get around to that.
The movie speaks to the cynicism of today by embodying it all. We get to watch Mavis work on her book, in the most uncaring manner, and continue to treat everyone around her like the dregs of society when it’s painfully obvious that she’s oblivious to the fact that the party’s over and no one cares anymore. She lost. She’s the one who’s still having to wear the tight black dress to try and seduce a happily married man just for her own gratification and the moment that fails to work, while continuing to delude herself, she fills the time by hanging out with Matt (Patton Oswalt), the local nerd who was attacked in High School and disfigured, ironically because there’s no one else who will put up with her own brand of stupid.
There are few films able to be as unsympathetic as Young Adult is and end without being completely loathed, and here I am to say that it worked. In almost every scene it’s impossible to find logic in why Mavis is unable to find happiness. Other than an off-handed reference to her failed marriage there is absolutely no reason for her “sad sack” of an existence other than she’s just pissed at the world for sucking so hard, and I love it.