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Young Adult Review

By Tom Fugalli

Pretty Ugly


Directed by Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air") and written by Diablo Cody ("Juno"), "Young Adult" is something like "Mean Girls" 20 years later. Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) has not progressed past the prom. Still in love with high school sweetheart Buddy (Patrick Wilson), she leaves Minneapolis on a quest to get him back, despite his marriage and family.

The recently-divorced Mavis looks good on the outside, with a seemingly successful writing career and party lifestyle. Though her days are spent hung over, drinking diet coke, and watching the Kardashians with her neglected dog. Emotionally she is on the same level as the protagonist of her young adult novel, and her book narrations double as a running commentary on her own life.

Back in her small hometown, she bumps into old high school geek Matt (Patton Oswalt), who was savagely beaten and disfigured in school by the popular guys. Once invisible to Mavis, he becomes both a reality-check and ego-booster ("Guys like me were born to love girls like you"). A conventional movie would have Mavis develop sympathy for others. What Mavis develops is jealousy of the attention that others' misfortunes bring them.

Matt's wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser) is the opposite of Mavis, in that she's caring and thoughtful and not a total bitch. She does have her own wild side, as the drummer in a band (the awesomely named Nipple Confusion). As Mavis tries inserting herself into Matt's and Beth's lives, the expected ugly scene occurs, and like much of the movie, you don't know if you should laugh or cry.

Charlize Theron once more shines as an unlikeable character, though she comes across less as she did in "Monster" and more as Halle Berry did in "Monster's Ball". You wonder how anyone can go through the wringer and still come out looking so hot. But this time her character's ugliness is all on the inside.

What did you think?

Movie title Young Adult
Release year 2011
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary Like "Mean Girls" 20 years later, this reteaming of the writer and director of "Juno" will make you wonder if you should laugh or cry.
View all articles by Tom Fugalli
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