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The film reunites director Jason Reitman with Juno screenwriter, Diablo Cody. Theron plays Mavis Gary, a 40-year-old writer of teen fiction who sees a chance to return to her small hometown as a way to relive her glory days and recapture her high school sweetheart, Buddy (Patrick Wilson).
The Hollywood Reporter’s chief film critic, Todd McCarthy, felt the film could have been longer and explored the story more, but he says the highlight of the film was in its acting, including Theron’s performance.
“Jumping into the deep end with an essentially unlikeable character who is nonetheless compelling and sometimes great fun to watch, Theron is terrific,” he says in his review. “She makes Mavis’ arrogance and certainty of her own allure not only convincing but enjoyable.”
Chicago Sun-Times critic, Roger Ebert agrees, simply saying “Theron is flawless at playing a cringe-inducing monster.”
The New York Observer’s Rex Reed raves about the actress’ performance in his review. “Another triumphant performance by Charlize Theron informs and enhances the otherwise uneven Young Adult,” he opens up his review of the film. Reed says that even if the film may at times feel laborious to watch, Theron’s acting makes it worth it.
“Ms. Theron, a true beauty and one of the screen’s most exquisite actors,” Reed writes. “Keeps the film airborne even when it seems dangerously earthbound. She’s a one-woman emergency rescue squad.”
In fact, most critics seem to have a universal appreciation for the actress’ performance in the role despite feeling that the film doesn’t quite live up to its promise. Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir calls the film “painful in the wrong way” and feels as if it fails in giving Theron’s performance the spotlight it deserves.
“It’s a fearless performance, but beyond sheer voyeurism Reitman and Cody never give us a reason to pay attention to Mavis,” the critic writes. “Let alone give three-quarters of a crap about what becomes of her.”
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