Early reviews are in for Young Adult, the Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody-helmed pitch black comedy that Time magazine is calling the flip side of the feel-good movie that first put Cody on the map.
Charlize Theron -- who won an Oscar for her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos -- plays a different kind of monster as Mavis, an aging prom queen for whom the two decades since high school have scarcely eroded her deluded narcissism or cover girl good looks. When the glorified ghostwriter learns that her long-lost high school crush and his wife have had a child, she flees the bright lights of Minneapolis for the sleepy Minnesota town she once ruled, intent on reclaiming something that was never really hers in the first place.
While Reitman and Cody are best known for the warm, too-precious-for-its-own-good Juno, viewers who were left cold by the grim conclusion of Up in the Air or the nightmarish themes in certain The United States of Tara episodes will be reminded that the sometimes writer-director team cannot be counted on for a sunny delight.
Sour as a vinegar Popsicle, 'Young Adult' shrouds its brilliant, brave and breathtakingly cynical heart in the superficial blandness of commercial comedy, wrote the New York Times' A.O. Scott, who branded the movie with a coveted Critic's Pick seal of approval.
Scott's sentiment is largely echoed in the few dozen reviews published before Friday's limited release opening. Young Adult currently has a 79% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it does not seem unlikely that it could improve once the stragglers come in. Big players like Scott, Roger Ebert, Rolling Stone's Peter Travers, and Time's Richard Corliss all had positive impressions (if not effusively so) of the movie; and both Theron's and Patton Oswalt's performances (Oswalt as the high school misfit who becomes Theron's ally) have earned across-the-board praise.
In a thorny role, Theron is splendid, wrote Corliss. She instinctively reveals everything Mavis doesn't know about herself and offers an intimate peek into a wayward soul.
In this tale of stunted development, Theron is a comic force of nature, giving her character considerable density and humanity despite her monstrous aspects, wrote Travers. And Patton Oswalt deserves cheers as Matt, a former classmate who pops Mavis' delusions with soul-crushing honesty. His dark duet with Theron is funny, touching and vital.
Fox News' Justin Craig agreed that both leads gave Oscar-worthy performances, but was less impressed with the movie overall, describing Young Adult as a car wreck you can't help looking at.
We can't wait to look at it! Check back Friday for Ellen Killoran's review.