Although she is the writer of a famous young adult novel series, Mavis’s recent divorce and career struggles have left her in a bit of a rut. While browsing her email one day, she discovers that an old flame has just had a child. After some processing, she decides that it is the perfect time for her to return home and pursue her love, Buddy Slade. With her dog by her side, she checks into a hotel in Mercury, Minnesota and sets her plan in motion to reconnect with Buddy. Before her chance encounter, she runs into high school punching bag, Matt Freehauf, who now lives with a limp after his brutal beating back during his teenage years. Even with a wife and a new child, Mavis pushes forward to seduce Buddy and inject herself into his life.
Starring: Charlie Theron (Mavis Gray), Patton Oswalt (Matt Freehauf), Patrick Wilson (Buddy Slade), Elizabeth Reaser (Beth Slade), Collette Wolfe (Sandra Freehauf), Jill Eikenberry (Hedda Gary), Richard Bekins (David Gray)
Taking a look on the dark side of a child-like adult, Charlize Theron gives her character a deep obsession for a life she believes was lost. With the film starting with the time after the divorce, she projects an emptiness of a woman defeated by life. Though she makes a strong effort to pursue her high school crush, she maintains a fairly self-destructive streak with a combination of alcoholism and unrealistic expectations. Patton Oswalt may not be the main character, but he delivers a strong performance as a man broken but not out. His presence has an element of sadness and remorse due to his difficult situation and loneliness. Patrick Wilson serves as the charming Buddy Slade. Though there is a history with his character that is left a little undeveloped, he maintains a consistent positive and supportive presence for his wife, who is played by Elizabeth Reaser. For Reaser, she represents that woman who puts on a positive face when she feels sorry for someone else’s situation.
Jason Reitman has had a lot of success with other films, like Juno and Up in the Air, but this film slid under the radar. Though Mavis is a 37-year old, she lives her life like someone in her early 20s. In her Minneapolis apartment, she is disorganized and riding the success of her former publishing career. The email of Buddy’s new child sparks a reaction in her that makes her regret her current state of affairs. Rather than accept his new life with Beth, she sees an opportunity to cut her out of the picture. The presence of Matt serves as another connection to a life once removed. She is resistant of his presence but sees him as a safe person to interact with. His first few attempts to get Buddy to show interest in her are unsuccessful but she continues to believe that he is opening up to her, particularly when she gets invited to Buddy’s and Beth’s naming ceremony for their child. Her arrival at the event is met with glares and glances as she definitely seems out of place. During her moment of frustration, she reveals more about her past and alienates herself from the crowd. In a moment of devastation and confusion, she seduces Matt to feel better about herself. Her conversation the next morning with Sandra restores some confidence in herself and puts her back on track for her city life.
The film’s exploration of Mavis’s struggles with life are not nearly comedic as the film was advertised. While there is a subtle humor to her behavior and interactions, there is a rather pathetic nature to her obsession with Buddy and belief that she can win him over. One of the few truly funny moments was actually during her check-in at the hotel, where her defensive nature about her dog being in her purse did not reflect the actual statements highlighted by the attendant. The storyline for Matt was one that invoked a sense of pity for his character but not a true connection. The relationship with Sandra was never explained, other than the fact that she was the same age (since they went to high school together) and she was related to Matt. There is also a major disconnect between the kissing scene with Mavis and Buddy after the gig and the fact that she neglects to bring it up during her major meltdown at the naming ceremony. There was a feeling that she was going to drop a bombshell (which would have made sense with her childlike behavior), but she yells about their past relationship and leaves the party.
Although there are a number of plot holes and challenges with the presentation of the film, it is entertaining with the context of Mavis’s final story of her novel series. The narration of the novel reflects the challenges she is exhibited as an older adult living like a young one.
Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5