94 minutes, U.S.A., 2011, Colour, D-Cinema

Director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, the duo behind Juno, return with another seriocomic saga about a strong-willed woman in small-town America, this time combining bitter humour with a newfound emotional maturity.

At 37, Charlize Theron’s Mavis is churning out pulp fiction for the ‘young adult’ marketplace, but her in-car penchant for Teenage Fanclub – on cassette! – suggests she’s still clinging to her own teenage years. Soon this bourbon-addled divorcee is forsaking big-city Minneapolis for her backwoods birthplace, determined to steal the heart of her teenage boyfriend (Patrick Wilson) even though his wife’s just delivered their first child.

The ensuing cavalcade of insight and embarrassment is worthy of Mike Leigh, as a seemingly conventional fish-out-of-water template frames much deliciously barbed comment on parochial mores, parenthood, and American culture’s eternal adolescence. Theron’s unpatronising and often viciously droll performance is a standout, and it’s so refreshing to see a mainstream Hollywood offering which never succumbs to cliché or mush. Young Adult is a film to savour. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)


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