As an avid and voracious consumer of fast food in all its quickly-prepped, highway-adjacent glory, I started to worry that I might have too much in common with the damaged protagonist of Young Adult, Mavis Gary. But then I calm myself after realizing that I’m not that immensely selfish and not in an attempt to destroy the life of one of my former flames. Or at least not yet.
But that is the gist of Mavis Gary, a somewhat-successful young adult fiction writer who has a very unfulfilling personal life in Minneapolis, all because of her own doing. Mavis develops a strange fascination with her old flame Buddy and ventures down to her small hometown in an effort to win him back. It doesn’t matter Buddy is married with a new kid, Mavis KNOWS they’re meant to be together, that other family commitment stuff is just a temporary roadblock. Serving as Mavis’ moral conscious is Patton Oswalt, playing a geek who couldn’t earn the attention of high school-aged Mavis if he tried but is now downing shots with her on a day-to-day basis, watching on sadly as Mavis goes down her path of self destruction.
It’s a very good, feel bad movie, funny in parts but more enjoyable because we want to actually see Mavis fail. She is both an unlikable character and one who reminds us of the snooty popular girls we knew in high school, cathartic to imagine them as Mavis-clones 20 years later. But as the movie progresses and we sympathize with Mavis more, still thinking of her entire plan as dumb but with more time spent pitying her than criticizing her. It’s a pretty fascinating flip, one that’s executed seamlessly by director Jason Reitman, with help from a smart, well-crafted screenplay by Diablo Cody.