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Ten Word or Less Review: American Psycho

Artifice and superficiality are warping characteristics much too rampant in popular culture.  These traits when left unchecked create people like Young Adult’s Mavis Gary, someone who craves the attention of others even as her own achievements which would warrant said attention are fading, maybe even not being there to begin with.  Mavis wants to be admired by the people she’s left behind, she feels she’s entitled to it, and she has no qualms about spinning a stream of lies which are visibly suspicious to many.  Incapable of admitting any truth to herself, Mavis represents the type of life that happens when all the wrong personal choices are made and never pointed out.  In short, Mavis is an extreme case of suspended adolescence and what happens when you don’t grow up.

A small time writer of teen lit, Mavis is in her mid 30’s, a raging alcoholic and in a state of denial so deep, what she sees as a fulfilling existence free of the so-called traps, family, house, normal job, etc., is little more than a house of warped mirrors constantly reflecting her shameful inadequacies as a human.  Stuck in a place where she is no longer able to see the truth in anything about herself, Mavis receives an e-mail from old boyfriend.  Buddy (Patrick Wilson) announcing the birth of his daughter sets Mavis off on a strange mental obsession.  Flooded with a sense of misplaced nostalgia for a time when she thought more of herself, Mavis heads back to her hometown in a bizarre attempt to steal Buddy away from his life, which she sees as his prison.  She runs into family and friends with whom contact is awkward and frequently misleading, but she strikes up a re pore with Matt, played by the excellent Patton Oswalt, an emotionally pained and physically crippled nerd with no life, but who none-the-less sees right to the core of Mavis with few obstructions.  Mavis plots to take back what she sees as the life which should have been hers, all the time spinning selfagrandizing lies which only reveal the depths of her alcohol and ego fueled delusion.

Charlize Theron has taken a career path which defied most expectations.  Being widely regarded as one of the world’s super gorgeous, she’s gradually avoided the kind of romantic claptrap and action movie garbage which she was too often apart of early in her career.  Theron has instead chosen to take the high road when it’s available, forsaking the inane and instead reaching for the interesting.  Mavis is a twist on the image of glamour Theron herself personifies.  She equates the adoration of others and non-conformity in general with success, even though she has little to brag about.  She’s a character lost in vanity and a pathetic struggle to prove to everyone that they wasted their life, not vice versa.  Mavis is a sharp image of people who lead their lives by narcissistic tendencies and selfish impulses.  The message is crystal clear, Young Adult skewers in an odd direction in its final moments.

Directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody, who worked together on Juno, work to form a movie which straddles the dramedy line with acute precariousness.  Young Adult exist in that place of awkward observation where neither laughs or tears are appropriate.  Mavis prods people in uncomfortable ways in which she’s keenly aware of what she’s doing but painfully oblivious of the effects her actions have.  Young Adult flirts with bringing about sympathy and change for our lead character but instead focuses on Mavis’ awkward delusions and doesn’t mind putting the audience off with uncomfortable situations and conclusions.  You may hope Mavis grows to become something else, but Young Adult doesn’t look to that possibility as a forgone conclusion.  In the case of Young Adult’s characters, the blind wind up leading the blind and only in a circle do they go.

There is worthy observation at the heart of Young Adult but it’s written into the life of a person it may be painful to experience that observation with.  Mavis is not the heroine who learns great lessons and overcomes great obstacles to her or others betterment.  Like the character she writes about in her woeful sounding series of high school lit, she’s hopelessly self absorbed, incapable of empathy and desperate for something she simply isn’t wise or mature enough to define.

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