Sometimes people who experience personal success in high school seem to expect that their lives will keep providing the same level of exultation that they experienced on the football field, or as a cheerleader, or prom queen or king. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t
Charlize Theron plays an ex-prom queen, Mavis Gray, in the movie Young Adult (directed by Jason Reitman). After the end of her first marriage, after a particularly bad drunken one-night-stand, Mavis, a writer of a young adult series which is about to be discontinued, decides to go back to her small home town in Minnesota to renew her relationship with her high school boyfriend, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson). She knows Buddy is married and that his wife just gave birth because she receives an email copy of the birth announcement.
Ms. Mavis still retains the beauty that helped her win her way in high school and perhaps beyond, but she is so obviously unhappy and in such a self-destructive state that she is only at her best when she makes an effort. She decides that all she will have to do is appear in Buddy Slade’s life and he will drop his wife and his new daughter as if they were a life he wandered into by mistake.
She is so deluded and her nuttiness brings her to the attention of the high school geek who had the locker next to her in high school but who she never knew existed, Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt). Matt, who Mavis meets in a bar, is another broken person who once had a crush on her in high school but who now deals with some physical disabilities left from a beating and is bitter and stuck. His sarcastic and brutal honesty feeds Mavis’s current blue mood. They self-destruct together and perhaps become unstuck.
This is a movie about hitting bottom, growing up, and the way it is often impossible to recapture the past. Charlize Theron makes Mavis Gray a memorable character.