Smart, witty and truthful comedy drama, full of humour and verve
MAVIS (Charlize Theron) is a successful but bored ghost writer of young adult fiction, faced with a void in her life.
When she learns that her old high school boyfriend Buddy (Patrick Wilson) and his wife have had a baby, she becomes obsessed with this and travels back to her Minnesota hometown under the guise of her writing, when in fact she thinks she can win him back.
However keen she is to reconnect with him, he's equally happy in his domestic bliss, something she's just unable to grasp, with Buddy's resistance little obstacle in her quest to re-connect with him, and only another former classmate (Patton Oswalt) aware of what she's up to.
Director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody reteam after the success of Juno, and deliver another smart, witty and truthful comedy drama. Dialogue is real and penetrating, much better than it was in Cody's previous screenplay, the disappointing horror Jennifer's Body.
Theron puts in a glamour-resistant performance, and she's thoroughly believable as a bitter lush, who somehow keeps the audience on her side no matter how unstable her behaviour may become.
The humour develops through character rather than placing people in daft situations. Watching Mavis dig a hole for herself provides a painful yet entirely authentic car crash of witty observation that nicely subverts the conventions of these things, where usually the prodigal is either subjected to homespun wisdom on their return, or dazzles the rubes with their success and big city ways.
The result is a fine example of how a film can be about damaged souls without being grim and depressing, proving that with good enough writing such a thing can be achieved with humour and verve.
Director: Jason Reitman
Running time: 93 mins
SEE IT IF YOU LIKED:
Juno; Bad Teacher; Little Miss Sunshine