Who we are during our high school years remains a sensitive and crucial part of us all. Whether you loved or loathed your teenage years in education, high school leaves a lasting impression on everyone. Many may deny this fact but it is a simple truth that those insecurities and emotions that we had back then never truly leave us. From my experience they tend to resurface when back in the company of high school friends and acquaintances. One of the best, and worst, things about the age of the social network is the fact that we can stay in some form of constant contact with these faint friends and faces. After high school many people blossom and others deteriorate or at least that’s how cruelly split these superficial categories of judgement appear to be. Most of us remember, all too clearly, the person that we were at high school. No matter how much we’ve changed, grown and transformed, that insecure teenager resides inside most of us; repressed but never fully forgotten. Young Adult encapsulates everything about the high school experience without revolving around teenagers, locker rooms or water fountains. Young Adult studies life after high school. For some people, who they were at high school defines them, even into their adult lives. This is exactly what is so tragic about Mavis Gary. Young Adult follows Mavis after she discovers her high school boyfriend is not only married but a first time father. Mavis is the author of a teen series of books that appears popular but exhausted. The title of the film is apt, with her job summing up her character. Mavis, once a prom queen and a high school princess, goes on a baffling and destructive mission to rekindle her love affair with her happily married ex-boyfriend.
Driven by her selfish nature and a childish stubbornness, Mavis becomes more unhinged and deluded as the film progresses. To Mavis, this twisted game she is playing is as meaningless as passing notes under a desk. To Mavis the fact that there are marriages, wives and children that she could be hurting is irrelevant. Recently divorced herself, we get the impression that she is yearning for the freedom of innocence and childhood. As the film moves to a climatic ending, Mavis’ deeper troubles are revealed and the story becomes even more poignant and impacting. Charlize Theron understands her character perfectly. Her beauty and a cold nature combine to create something of a twisted ex-cheerleader whose pompoms are fading. Writer Diablo Cody first found cinema success with her witty and delightfully dark comedy Juno. Young Adult slipped under the radar for many but for me it is just as intelligent and powerful as her first. There is less humour in the script but it has a more moving message about the cruel nature of high school, placing Young Adult alongside other great bitter high school films such as Heathers and Election. The characters are complex and interesting and the film moves at a steady but satisfying pace. Young Adult is a painfully honest and highly rewarding comedy which leaves a lasting impression, perhaps not on the current you, but on that fragile confused teenager you once were.
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