Film review: YOUNG ADULT from Built for Speed

Look out gen x-ers, the 90’s we thought were so cool and edgy are now middle-aged nostalgia. Young Adult, the bittersweet new film from Jason Reitman, celebrates 90’s pop culture – particularly the music – while showing the damaging effects of hanging onto the past. Much like Gross Point Blank from 1997 (scenes, music and characters from which Young Adult occasionally references) this is a film this about the impossibility of going home.

Scripted by Juno writer, Diablo Cody the film of course features a cynical, contemptuous female character spitting barbed witticisms at dopey suburban do-gooders. This time our would-be heroine is not a teen but teen fiction writer, Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron). Once an alpha female prom queen she’s now a restless 37 year old alcoholic with a failing career. Unwisely, she thinks returning to her small home town to inveigle herself into her former boyfriend’s (Patrick Wilson) life will solve everything.

While Ellen Page as Juno tried so hard to be hip and clever she was nauseating, Theron makes Mavis a complex, vulnerable and funny character who is at times contemptible but also tragic. As she did in Monster, Theron elicits both disgust and sympathy for her character. Young Adult is at its best, though, when Mavis is just being totally irresponsible and out of control. There’s some superbly cringe worthy moments as Mavis unloads decades of bile and confusion on unsuspecting former class mates, much like Kristjn Wiig at her most unhinged in Bridesmaids.

There’s also a fine supporting performance from Patton Oswalt as a self-confessed geek who was always outside the social orbit of people like Mavis but now finds himself in the awkward role of her confidante.

Young Adult was never going to be a box office bonanza but it packs enough emotional punch and has enough laughs and pop culture savvy to guarantee it a small but affectionate following.

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