Apathetic alcoholic Mavis Gary revisits her roots in hopes of recapturing her high school sweetheart. While there, she bonds with a classmate who she considered a loser back in the day.
You would hope that Mavis would be able to find redemption after she returns to her small hometown, especially as she connects with fellow alum (and hate-crime survivor) Matt Freehauf (a stellar Patton Oswalt). Instead she dives in headfirst with her faulty plan to snag former boyfriend Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) from his wife, Beth (Elizabeth Reaser), despite the fact that the happily married couple just had a baby. Matt tries to act as the voice of reason in the face of Mavis’s sociopathic drive, but mainly ends up as a drinking pal instead. And drink they do! My liver cried out and I averted my eyes during the multiple scenes when Mavis drinks straight from a bottle of whiskey. Does she think she’s in high school? Oh, wait… She even shits on Matt’s sister, Sandra (Collette Wolfe), the one person who actually does worship her. Her simple insult to Sandra is crushing.
Not many people will like Mavis Gary. She’s physical gorgeous, but emotionally stunted as she veers towards self-loathing, soul-sucking and outright contempt towards anyone she (ironically) thinks of as less than her. Good thing her day job is writing novels for teen girls! The upside? Charlize Theron plays the hell out of this awful character, wringing emotion from every scene. You’ll squirm in your seat, but also acknowledge that she’s doing an outstanding job.
Not as pretty as she looks, but the dog is damn cute!
One thing I absolutely loved was the reality television theme throughout the film. The movie opens with a young woman sobbing about how she doesn’t feel pretty anymore. I naturally assumed we were about to be introduced to the main character – only to have the camera pull back to reveal a crying Kendra Wilkinson, from the E! Channel’s Kendra, lamenting to her husband about the changes in her appearance. The Kardashian sisters also show up as vapid vocal backdrops to Mavis’s empty life.
A lot of expectations have been heaped upon screenwriter/producer Diablo Cody and, for the most part, she delivers. It’s lacking in Juno-esque slang, which is definitely not a bad thing – but it’s also lacking in laughs. I’m not sure why it was marketed as a comedy – other than the obvious ploy to get butts in seats. Yet I couldn’t help but pose the question: would the drive for theater-goers be there if the campaign to highlight the movie as a drama was presented more honestly? The film is well-written and well acted, but lighthearted it ain’t.
She’s got Buddy in her sights and she’s ready to pounce!
Much like Kristen Wiig and Bridesmaids, many women look to Diablo to bear the mantle of all things female in films. Is it fair? No. Is it going to happen? Yes. And Cody didn’t make it easy for us this time around. Mavis doesn’t come wrapped in a bow, nor is she easy to define. She doesn’t become a better person at the end of the film; instead she just keeps running. Mavis, like Diablo herself, is a polarizing figure – it kind of doesn’t matter whether you love her or hate her, you will be talking about her. I think the Kardashians would agree – that’s the whole damn point in the first place.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Mavis drinks. She loves the company!
Take a Drink: every time Mavis shuffles around in her Hello Kitty t-shirt.
Take a Drink: every time you cringe in embarrassment for Mavis.
Take a Drink: every time you root for Matt (or anyone) to tell Mavis off.
Last Call: As you may suspect, there is no gag reel or additional scenes. When Mavis exits the final frame she’s gone for good, home skillet.