Jacob Latimore, Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett star in director Kasi Lemmons' seasonal drama.
On Film4: 17 Dec 11:00AM
Successful teen author Mavis (Charlize Theron) returns to the small town she grew up in an attempt to win back her high school sweetheart. His wife and child are viewed as no real obstacle
Remember that girl at school that all the girls hated but also wanted to be? No, not that one - she now has nine children and a husband that cheats on her; it's called karma. No, this is the queen bee who actually made it - the bitchy prom queen who managed to make a living being a bitchy prom queen in real life. In this case, that's through the medium of writing Young Adult novels where the perfect heroine always gets the guy despite everybody plotting against her because they're so jealous of how perfect she is.
The author of these novels is Mavis, a career standout role for Charlize Theron. Uglying up for Monster (for which she won Best Actress at the 2003 Oscars) may have captured more column inches, but it's this portrayal of a woman so good at being a narcissistic teenager that's she's basically never grown up that really shows how subtle and smart she is as a performer. If Mavis doesn't sound like a very likeable character, that's because she isn't. And that's what makes the film (unlike its protagonist) a mature film. It's so rare that women get to play fully rounded, three dimensional, flawed human beings, that's it's almost kind of unsettling to realise that's what's going on here.
Director Jason Reitman specialises in these types of characters. Think of George Clooney's initially soulless character in Up In The Air or Aaron Eckhart's nihilistic pro-tobacco lobbyist in Thank You For Smoking. They're stunted, while thinking they have their lives pretty sorted. Here's Reitman's reteaming with Diablo Cody, who won an Oscar for the script that saw Reitman nominated for an Academy Award for directing: Juno. With all this awards potential floating around, it's odd that the acerbic, spiky Young Adult isn't getting more attention. Perhaps there isn't yet space at the Hollywood leading manchild convention for a woman as flawed, interesting and brilliantly performed as - say - male roles like Melvin from As Good As It Gets, Myles from Sideways or Matt from The Descendants. Mavis is their better manicured kindred spirit.
If you're fed up with candy floss films but in no mood to eat your Oscar oatmeal, try this: a sour gooseberry sorbet of a movie. And we mean that as a compliment.
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