Screenwriting gurus, development executives and anybody an aspiring screenwriter has ever pitched their film to will always tell said screenwriter something like this:
“It’s called a movie for a reason. Let there be action.”
“The first ten pages have to really grab me and hold my attention.”
“You need to give us something we can sell.”
And other similarly worded doublespeak that does the screenwriter no favours.
Of course, that type of angst is totally bypassed when the screenwriter has a gold-plated statue of a bald guy somewhere in her home. Especially if she also happens to have a producer/director BFF for whom she wrote said Oscar-winning movie. Oh and wait a minute, an Oscar-winning actress just signed on to star in this new confection from the writer of all things cool and slangy? Saddle up boys because we just got something we can sell. So forget about all that other stuff.
This is screenwriter (and soon-to-be director) Diablo Cody’s ‘grown-up’ movie except that it is not really about anything remotely grown-up.
Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary a ghost-writer of young adult (get it?) fiction who spends her time watching reality television, drinking a lot of Coke, getting wasted and bringing strange men to her home which she shares with a cute little dog.
One day, when she receives an email announcing that her high school ex just had a baby she decides it would be a good idea for her to go back to the small town she left behind to try and rescue him from the dreariness of a happy marriage and fatherhood.
So she arrives in Mercury, Minnesota, driving a car similar to the one the movie star version of Ms. Theron drove in the remake of The Italian Job, begins yapping about winning Buddy back (yup, that’s his name and he is played by Patrick Wilson) to the first guy who recognizes her in the bar she goes to. This guy, Matt (Patton Oswalt), was the fat kid in school whose locker was right next to Mavis’s—not that she ever noticed.
But, they bond (Why? Don’t ask me, I didn’t write this) and he tries to dissuade her from going through with her delusional plan. Can you guess where all this is heading?
Nowhere good, I can tell you that much.
Mavis lurks around supermarket aisles and fast food venues eavesdropping on strangers to fuel the book she is writing (which is a thinly veiled reimagining of her own life). She also turns up repeatedly at Matt’s house and lays all her emotional baggage on him every time something goes badly in her quest to liberate Buddy from the clutches of small-town ennui. So when the big revelation comes (it is really not that big) I am not entirely sure what we are supposed to feel.
The dialogue is unexciting, the repetitive scenes do not really serve as anything other than filler material and overall this sounds like the idea for a short film was extended to feature length. So I wondered about how a dog abandoned in a hotel room for days on end never poops on the bed? Or how a small town (new) father has the cash to splurge on a drum kit? Or why does Mavis have Matt’s number on her cellphone?
Are there some redeeming features to this movie? Sure, Charlize Theron looks pretty good doing what she does. Patrick Wilson plays the part of the clueless ex effectively. And the film is mercifully short.
I read somewhere that comedy is subjective. Well, I certainly didn’t get the joke if this was supposed to be a funny movie. And if it was supposed to be a drama, then it was dramatic in the same way that a family dinner is dramatic when two cousins aren’t speaking to each other.
And way less fun to watch.