Director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody’s high school reunion after their award-winning indie hit Juno (2007) stars Charlize Theron as a ghost writer of young adult fiction who just can’t get her first love out of her head.
Despite the protagonists being thirtysomethings all the teen stereotypes that made Juno such a hit are again on show.
Grown-up cheerleader Mavis Gary (Theron) has turned alcoholic ghost writer for a series of teen girl romance novels. On the surface it’s an unlikely role for Theron, whose bouncing blonde locks and slender faun-like frame get her paydays as the face of J’adore Dior, while here she plays washed up and desperately trying to hang on to her looks. Of course she has done this sort of thing before, in Monster (2003) and it paid off, winning her the Oscar for Best Actress, but alas her efforts this time are largely wasted.
Divorcee Mavis’s life in Minneapolis is turned upside down when she receives an email announcing the birth of her high school sweethearts baby boy. She quits her ‘Mini-Apple’ apartment wearing Hello Kitty pyjamas and carrying her pooch ‘Dolce’ in her handbag on route for Mercury, Minnesota, the small town she hated growing up in.
Using her experiences as source material for her latest book writing assignment, it’s soon apparent that Mavis still views the world from a teen perspective. Her delusional fantasies and downward spiral of cringe-worthy antics are a constant source of amusement. Bumping into the high school loser, cripple Matt (Patton Oswalt from Cody’s tv dramedy United States of Tara), they ran in different circles at school, but find they are now inseparable, spending nights drinking home-brew in his garage.
Reitman continues his obsession with brands. Where in Juno it was Sunny D’s here it’s diet coke, hello kitty, and Kim Kardashian.
Quickly her pursuit of X(Patrick Wilson) have become predatory, using heels and chicken fillets to lead her man astray. Trouble is, his new wife is pretty cool and plays drums in band of mothers. This brings out the ‘psychotic prom queen’ side to her character, rather than the desperate and unhappy soul she reveals herself to be when hanging with Paton.
Well-written, the characters are likeable, even Mavis, who worryingly (given her fantastic bitchy attitude) Diablo Cody claims she based on herself. Although the action felt slow in places and relied on its character’s charisma to keep the audience interested, the humour is sufficient to please any Reitman/Cody fan.
In cinemas February 10.