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Author Struggles to Find Happy Ending in 'Young Adult'

  • Alan Silverman

Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary in YOUNG ADULT, from Paramount Pictures and Mandate Pictures.

Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary in YOUNG ADULT, from Paramount Pictures and Mandate Pictures.

Writer Diablo Cody and Director Jason Reitman, who made the 2007 hit "Juno," reunite for a new comedy that tests the old saying "you can't go home again." Here's a look at Young Adult.



MATT "What are you doing back in Mercury. Are you moving back?"
MAVIS "Of course not. Gross!"


Mavis moved away from her small Minnesota town years ago, right after graduating from high school. She found fame and fortune in the big city, Minneapolis, as a successful author of popular novels for young adults. But her real life is nothing like those romantic fantasies and so she's gone home to win back her high school sweetheart.



MAVIS "Here's the deal. Buddy Slade and I are meant to be, to get him back."
MATT "I'm pretty sure he's married with a kid on the way."
MAVIS "No, the kid is here. I'm cool with it. I mean I've got baggage too."
MATT "I would keep all of this to yourself. I would find a therapist."


Despite warnings from Matt, the former classmate she runs into at a local bar, Mavis plows ahead with her twisted plan. But she discovers it's not nearly as easy to achieve a happy ending in real life as it is to write one in her novels. Screenwriter Diablo Cody says the chasm between fantasy and reality inspired the story.

Left to right: Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary and Patton Oswalt plays Matt Freehauf in YOUNG ADULT, from Paramount Pictures and Mandate Pictures.

Left to right: Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary and Patton Oswalt plays Matt Freehauf in YOUNG ADULT, from Paramount Pictures and Mandate Pictures.

"I have been an avid consumer of young adult literature since I was one, and I was always interested in the fantasy world created in those novels," Cody says. "The idea of somebody whose priorities were completely screwed up who wanted to live in that world, even though it's completely unattainable, was intriguing to me."

MAVIS "You can come to the city with me like we always planned."
BUDDY "Mavis, I'm a married man."
MAVIS "I know. We can beat this thing together."


Charlize Theron is lewd, crude and thoughtless as Mavis, and she says those unsavory aspects made the character appealing to her.

Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary in YOUNG ADULT, from Paramount Pictures and Mandate Pictures.

Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary in YOUNG ADULT, from Paramount Pictures and Mandate Pictures.

"What I liked when I read Diablo's script was the idea of a woman who is dealing with very common issues that women can really relate to," explains Theron, "but is dealing with them the way a 16-year-old would deal with them. Here she is 37 trying to get her life together, and she just doesn't have the tools to do it."

Like the hit comedies Bridesmaids and Bad Teacher, Young Adult seems to fit a new genre of 'women behaving badly.' However, Theron believes it's actually women getting the chance to play the same kind of roles as men.

Left to right: Patrick Wilson plays Buddy Slade and Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary in YOUNG ADULT, from Paramount Pictures and Mandate Pictures.

Left to right: Patrick Wilson plays Buddy Slade and Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary in YOUNG ADULT, from Paramount Pictures and Mandate Pictures.

"People get freaked out when they see real women conflicted," she notes. "I think women are almost way more conflicted than men, and I grew up on cinema where guys got to do that. Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman and [Robert] DeNiro got to play all of those kind of characters that I saw a little bit of myself in - those kind of struggles with dark things. It's very rare to see women [like that], but I think we are getting a chance to play those kind of honest characters."

Mavis's journey does not fit the usual pattern in a movie about someone who needs to learn a lesson. But whether that's all right is something director Jason Reitman believes the audience can decide.

"If I have a message, and hopefully there's a continuity of that in all of my films, it's 'think for yourself and come up with your own opinions.' I certainly don't want to tell you what to think and hopefully people draw their own conclusions," he says.

Young Adult features Patrick Wilson as the former high school sweetheart. And Patton Oswalt is the barroom buddy who tries to be the voice of reason.


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