The only thing better than getting to see a talented, beautiful actress in her full glory is seeing her the morning after the paparazzi have stopped taking photos, with her eye makeup smeared, wearing sweatpants, watching Teen Mom and guzzling Diet Coke like each mouthful holds the hope of her living through the day. This is only the beginning of the fun in the latest film by dynamic duo Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman. Starring Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt, it has all the deliciousness of watching reality TV, because it's a train wreck where the main offender learns nothing at all. Luckily it has enough substance to justify watching something outside your DVR.
Young Adult is all about happiness. Where does it come from, and who has the most of it? Although it never asks these questions outright, it manages to bring up the issue without being annoying and seeming like it belongs on the shelf next to The Secret DVDs that no one buys anymore. In fact, the central figure in the movie is the aforementioned train wreck of a human being, Mavis (Theron), who does exactly what I describe above. She obviously hasn't attained anything resembling bliss (unless you count bliss as a sparkly prostitute blouse that she can wear to bars--she seems to have a few of those). Mavis is dealing with the slings and arrows that life throws at everyone, but is obviously unprepared to deal with them in a compassionate, levelheaded manner. To put it plainly, she's an alcoholic jerk, and she decides that the key to making it in this life is by stealing back her high school boyfriend Buddy (Patrick Wilson), not caring about the fact that he is now another woman's husband and a new baby's father.
Mavis' obvious manipulations to wrench Buddy away from his family make the movie awkwardly hilarious at all times, thanks to Cody's familiar snarky tone. Mavis is so contemptible that it defies logic. In fact, she might be the most clueless villain of all time, surpassing other mean drunks like Willie in Bad Santa because she never has a moment where you get on her side. Thankfully, she is accompanied by Matt (Oswalt), a nerd from Mavis' high school whom she can't remember because she doesn't pay attention to anyone she doesn't see in the mirror everyday. Oswalt is the perfect choice to play a role like this that voices the exasperation of the audience, and he calls Mavis out on her coldhearted antics with his particular brand of charming astuteness. Of course, the fact that it is only bashing against a brick wall will frustrate some of the audience, but I enjoyed it. I just had to keep lying to myself, pretending that people like Mavis don't really exist and that everyone has something good inside of them. And yes, my Pollyanna complex has helped me through many a presidential debate, thank you.
Reitman and Cody don't make a strong case for or against the big city versus the small town. Mavis has what the Mercurians think is an exciting life, but she's a hollow shell of a human being who doesn't understand that there isn't enough makeup in the world to hide her sadness. The small-towners create joy with their whiskey distilleries in their garages, but also have dreams they traded for something else. Nobody gets out of life unscathed. The thing the filmmakers seem to take a stand on is that how you treat people is important, and their main character fails that test miserably throughout the film. With no sense of justice at the end of a comedic movie, it's a little unsettling, but the rest of the cast and the giggles helped keep me afloat.