| Academy Award winner Charlize Theron ("Monster") stakes her claim for another Oscar nomination playing a 37-year-old ghostwriter of a fictitious teen literature series. Director Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air") teams up again with former stripper- turned- Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody ("Juno") in this super dark dramedy about a woman in a state of arrested development trying to turn back the clock to her glory years in high school when she was prom queen.
Mavis Gary (Theron) lives in a high-rise condominium in Minneapolis with a cute little Toy Pomeranian. She drinks Diet Coke from the bottle and eats ice cream by the pint. She frequently dresses like a slob and keeps her apartment messy. She meets guys off an internet dating site and has meaningless sex. She is depressed and lonely, even though her narcissistic lifestyle gives her the freedom to do her own thing.
When Mavis receives an email from her ex-boyfriend Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson from "A Gifted Man") of his new nameless baby, she impulsively decides to return to her small Minnesota hometown to rekindle their relationship and take Buddy away from his humdrum existence.
This impressive character study of a psychotic homewrecker takes audiences in unexpected directions with sparkling dialogue laced with ironic puns. The episodic original screenplay revolves around three encounters between Mavis and Buddy. She makes herself look drop dead gorgeous when they meet at a local sports bar. She tells Buddy that she wants to pick up where they left off. Buddy is happily married to Beth (Elizabeth Reaser from "The Twilight Saga" and "Grey’s Anatomy") and ecstatic about being a father.
The second time she gets together with Buddy occurs when Beth is performing on stage as a drummer with a local girl’s band. Mavis resents Beth’s happiness. Beth wants to hang out with the girls after the gig so Mavis agrees to drive Buddy home. An awkward kiss on Buddy‘s doorstep brings more frustration.
The final straw takes place during the baby's naming ceremony in the backyard of Buddy's house. Mavis gets inebriated and goes berserk. Her deplorable behavior is punctuated by blunt and hurtful statements with no shortage of expletives.
During her brief sojourn back home, Mavis bumps into Matt (Patton Oswalt), another former high school classmate. She refers to this chubby nerd as "the hate-crime guy," because he was beaten up and suffered serious injuries at the hands of a group of jocks accusing him of being a homosexual. Mavis and Matt form an unlikely bond as drinking buddies. Matt becomes her confidante and a reliable shoulder to cry on.
Theron gives a terrific performance. She elevates the movie by demonstrating her versatility. She almost makes you feel sympathetic towards this blonde, beautiful and sharp-witted anti-heroine.
Oswalt, best known as a stand-up comedian, makes an indelible dramatic impression as this sad sack geek. You will find his character to be the only truly sincere person worth caring about. He deserves year-end awards consideration in the supporting actor category.
Cody's creative insights into recognizing that some people never change and refuse to grow up should put this original script on the radar for award recognition from critic groups and industry guilds.
The nostalgic yearning for bygone days forms the essence of this compelling movie. It is best expressed by Mavis, who also serves as our narrator. "You can't keep dwelling in the past," she says to Matt.
The movie's other strengths include the variety of costumes worn by Theron, the expertly done hair and makeup, and a well-edited, streamlined running time of 94 minutes. The movie was filmed in Mini-apple, which is what small-town nobodies supposedly call Minneapolis.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"