What I Saw: Young Adult
When Peter Pan refused to grow up, he got to go on flying adventures, fight pirates, and be the leader of the lost boys. Mavis Gary, on the other hand, isn’t having nearly as much fun. The difference lies simultaneously in our culture’s gendered expectations of success, our idealized attachment to childhood and our societal rejection of the the formative teenage years.
Charlize Theron plays the title character Mavis Gary, who is the author of a popular series of young adult novels. Had she chosen to write books for a slightly younger demographic, she would be adored as a children’s author. Had she chosen to write books for a slightly older demographic, she might have her work turned into a television series like Sex And The City. Adolescence, however, is viewed as merely a transitional phase by our society, something that one is expected to grow out of rather than emulate. Unlike Peter Pan, no one finds it cute when Mavis invites her Wendy (played by Patrick Wilson) to return to the Neverland ideals of young love and fight the onslaught of adult responsibility, confident that they can “beat this thing together.”
The prevalence of heterosexist gender roles also plays into this. Although she is a former prom queen, Mavis is divorced and has no children. Her sidekick (played by Patton Oswalt) is falsely accused of being gay and undergoes a painful hate crime as a result. Those who are still following the Peter Pan analogy will recall that in that series Peter Pan’s sidekick (the fairy Tinkerbell) was saved by the magic of the cheering crowds, but here the responsible masses have all embraced maturity, and their clapping hands have been replaced with pity.
There are many humorous moments in the script, but the real power of the film comes from the commitment that Theron and Oswalt make to their characters. Both actors embrace the fragility of their characters, as well as the incredible steps that they (and particularly Theron) go to in presenting themselves to the public. The film leaves us wondering whether Mavis will ever change her ways, but it makes it painfully clear that the rest of us will not be changing ours.
Lead Actress: Charlize Theron (currently ranked 6, but could easily break into the top 5)
Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody (currently ranked 7)
Supporting Actor: Patton Oswalt (currently ranked 9)
Best Director: Jason Reitman (currently ranked 21)
Best Picture (currently ranked 30)
Film Editing: Dana Glauberman (currently ranked 39)
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My Lamb Score: 4 out of 5 Lambs
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