Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2011. Paramount Pictures, Denver and Delilah Productions, Indian Paintbrush, Mandate Pictures, Mr. Mudd, Right of Way Films. Screenplay by Diablo Cody. Cinematography by Eric Steelberg. Produced by Diablo Cody, Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick, Russell Smith. Music by Rolfe Kent. Production Design by Kevin Thompson. Costume Design by David C. Robinson. Film Editing by Dana E. Glauberman. Golden Globe Awards 2011. National Society of Film Critics Awards 2011.
Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) lives the truly glamorous life: she has random sex on first dates, passes out fully dressed and drunk on her bed every night and is still thrown for a loop when reminded about her high school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson). She also has an illustrious career as a ghost writer for a fading series of young adult books that she writes based on her observations of young women around her, though she is currently well behind on a deadline; our impression is that this is often the case. Her Minnesota hometown was a hell of a bore, so naturally when she receives an email from Wilson about the birth of his newborn daughter she takes it as a plea for help from him and his boring life. She gets into her Mini Cooper, heads back home, checks in to a hotel, and then goes out and gets drunk. It’s pretty much the way she stays for the rest of this sharp, fun and unapologetically mean comedy by Jason Reitman and his Juno writer Diablo Cody, in which Theron dominates beautifully as the still glamorous but emotionally damaged woman who clings to the past in order to help herself deal with the disappointments of the present. Unlike his last two films, Reitman doesn’t let this one run past the point where its energy expires, instead keeping it sharp and fun until the sassy ending, in which we learn that the politics of high school are everlasting and forever. Patton Oswalt has a terrific supporting turn as an old high school chum with whom our heroine connects, becoming a sort of practical Sancho Panza to her insane Don Quixote, but the real treat is how Cody’s script reverses what made Juno a piece of sweet but unbelievable bullshit: instead of a sixteen year-old girl who talks far too much like a grown woman and convinces backward-looking adult audiences that they too were possibly that wise in their youth, we have a grown woman who has not learned to act her age and, as a result, is both endearing and unbearable for it. Cody is still quite the unsophisticated writer, her characters comes up with terms like “KenTacoHut” and seem to think they invented punning, but her observations about relationships and maturity are spot on here, and Reitman does a great job of not getting in anyone’s way.