When I watched the Oscars last month, I was only about 85 percent engaged because my two favorite performances of the year went unrecognized by the Academy. Ryan Gosling’s vengeful loner in Drive and Charlize Theron’s sauced former prom queen in Young Adult were bold, brave performances that never had a prayer with an Oscar membership whose reported median age is 62. Both films were unconventional in their own ways, and Young Adult, from the Juno team of writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, was unrepentant in its bitter follow-through.
The dark comedy, about a mediocre young-adult author (Theron) who decides she wants her Minnesota high school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson) back after she’s accidentally invited to his baby daughter’s naming ceremony, takes great delight in showcasing its protagonist’s spectacular flaws. Theron’s Mavis is a train wreck, and the Oscar winner never lets her character off the hook. There’s no eureka moment for her, no escape hatch. “If there’s something that Charlize is known for, it’s going unflinching into every character she does,” says Reitman, in the Blu-ray extra, “Misery Loves Company: The Making of Young Adult.” “She’s fearless. It’s exciting to be working with a fearless writer and a fearless actress at the same time.”
Theron, who’s been rewarded by Oscar for playing a different brand of ugly before (Monster) deserves a second look — as does Patton Oswalt’s local loser who’s equally trapped in the past. Her performance is so unnerving that she’s a main reason her upcoming Snow White epic — in which she plays the Evil Queen — has an early edge, in my mind, on a rival project starring Julia Roberts in a similar role.
Take a look at a clip from “Misery Loves Company,” and plan your Drive/Young Adult double-feature when the latter comes out on home video Tuesday, March 13. Maybe the ides of March?