Thirty seven year old Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) was once the popular girl at school, but now her life is in a mess. A failed marriage, a string of one night stands and her career as a writer struggling as the young adult books she has been ghost writing have been cancelled. It is little wonder she struggles to find anything to be happy about. But when she learns that Buddy (Patrick Wilson), her high school sweetheart, has just had a baby, she decides to head back to her hometown of Mercury, Minnesota with a plan of stealing Buddy away from his wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser). Less than sly in her attempts to seduce Buddy, Mavis come to the attention of Matt (Patton Oswalt) who was at high school at the same time as Mavis but he was almost killed by jocks who beat him to within an inch of his life which has left him cynical but well aware of what Mavis is trying to do.
Ignore that "Young Adult" is a movie for a minute and just think about the storyline about a popular girl at school ending up not having the great life she had hoped for and now is stuck in a rut of self loathing and hate. To me that is such a potential packed idea for all sorts of movies from outright comedies with a juvenile streak to more thoughtful dramas focusing on the soul searching aspect of someone realising that it is there responsibility to make their life great, no one else's and that they can't turn back time.
Now of course "Young Adult" is a movie and one written by Diablo Cody but directed by Jason Reitman and like their 2007 collaboration "Juno" has that commercially indie feel to it. It is hard to actually describe but it is that mix of being a comedy with some mainstream laughs but not a deluge of them as there is this soul searching, almost deep side to it as we have damaged characters. The question of course is does watching Mavis try to sabotage Buddy's marriage and her interactions with Matt make for an entertaining experience. Sort of as whilst it kept my attention to the end it didn't leave me with any real enjoyable memories or anything close to a desire to watch it again.
Despite this both Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt embrace their damaged characters and certainly bring them to life. As such you can feel Mavis's hate and you get a real sense that she feels that life has short changed her since her glory days at high school, and in a twist we do learn what that catalyst was to cause things to go wrong. But then we get to Matt and we slowly realise that whilst he is a nice guy he has let the events of the past and the injuries he suffered to define him and his attitude to life. When you focus on these two characters' attitudes "Young Adult" starts to reveal itself.
What this all boils down to is that "Young Adult" is for me one of those almost but not quite movies as whilst it has an interesting idea, good writing, and also good acting the finished product just doesn't quite leave a lasting impression or that sense that this is a movie which needs to be watched more than once.