Playing Mavis Gary, a thirtysomething author of young-adult fiction geared to flatter teen delusions, Charlize Theron comes out blazing with bitchery. Thackeray's Becky Sharp has nothing on Mavis. Recently divorced and nearing meltdown, big-city Mavis returns to her backwater Minnesota town to win back Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), the boy that got away. Pure YA stuff. One problem: Buddy is married, a new dad and not interested. Screenwriter Diablo Cody, famed for YA-themed movies such as Juno and Jennifer's Body, has this territory down cold. And her gutsy script is note-perfect, right down to Mavis' addiction to the Kardashians, Diet Coke and the fast-food dumps she visits with her laptop, the better to steal bons mots from teens with. Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) directs this tricky material – Mavis is someone you often want to throttle – with the ease and dexterity of a true pro. In this tale of stunted development, Theron is a comic force of nature, giving her character considerable density and humanity despite her monstrous aspects. And Patton Oswalt deserves cheers as Matt, a former classmate who pops Mavis' delusions with soul-crushing honesty. His dark duet with Theron is funny, touching and vital. But fair warning: The laughs in Young Adult leave bruises.
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