Dir: Jason Reitman
Mavis Gary is not a likable character. She’s bonkers, mean spirited, thoughtless, self centered, and above all else selfish. She doesn’t care who she hurts or who likes her or doesn’t. One gets the sense that the world could be on fire around her and as long as she wasn’t burning, she wouldn’t care. Nope, Mavis Gary is entirely unlikable.
I really liked Mavis Gary. I liked her as the hero of this story precisely because of how unapologetic she is. When the story has kicked her around enough that she shows emotion it’s uncomfortable, out of character, borderline awkward. The fact that she’s so obstinate, so believing in her self worth appealed to me on a really visceral level. I think it’s because…in some weird way…I identified with her.
That’s a horrible conclusion to come to. I don’t see a lot of myself in Mavis, let me be clear. Frankly, most of the reason why I don’t see it is because Charlize Theron is absurdly gorgeous and I’m…well I don’t look like her, let’s be diplomatic and say none of us really look like her (some bear less of a resemblance than others). What I do understand is wanting something so badly that maybe the stars are in your eyes a little bit too much and signals get misread.
I don’t think any of us, myself included, have been as delusional as Mavis is. But there is a point that I think anyone who has been in an unrequited situation can point at and say “Yes, that’s exactly it. Yes.” Buddy (played by Patrick Wilson, who should get back to Broadway but with this has redeemed himself for Insidious) pays Mavis a compliment. It’s something simple, something like, “Well, it’s his loss.” Her entire demeanor changes. She smiles, becomes softer somehow. This is a testament to Theron’s likability that she can convey that universal validation of getting a compliment from a boy you like through so unlikable a conduit.
There is no way to gracefully segue into a new paragraph about someone I so unilaterally love as Patton Oswalt so I’m just going to jump in. That man can make me cry laughing and, let’s be perfectly honest, I pepper my day to day speech with his wit so I can weed out cool people who get references and gain friends (fans?) who think I’m TERRIBLY funny if they don’t realize I’m quoting. But. BUT! He is also the film’s emotional center as Matt, a man who has had genuinely bad luck and is doing the best he can. He counters Mavis’s charmed life and road to absolute destruction. He’s the film’s heart, and an absolute joy to watch. This isn’t just my bias talking. I’m sure other people who don’t think he’s funny love him too. He’s just a lovable dude.
Diablo Cody writes her first script filled with words that people actually might say in a real life situation! It’s…astounding, and really quite good. If this is the style that she’s going to move forward in, then perhaps I might have to tone down my across the board hatred of her writing. Reitman is an unobtrusive director (I’m proud to say I’ve seen all of his feature films!) and remains so here. The use of diegetic music-especially over the opening credits-is wonderful and worthy of special attention.
I can’t half ass this recommendation: I think this movie is pretty important. Everything really came together, and in my (not so esteemed anywhere outside of the internet, and probably not even there very much) opinion, it’s one of the best movies of the year.
What she said. All of it.