Do you ever grow up if you don’t have kids? No. Are you stunted from the lack of responsibility, compromise, chaos, distraction, purpose and selflessness? Yes. When I’m with my nieces and nephews I have no desire to be a role model, an upstanding citizen, and while I do try to keep them unharmed on my watch, I’m certainly no authority figure, let alone a mother figure. I just want to hang out, as if I were twelve, too. Or nine, or sixteen, or three for that matter, whatever age they happen to be, and with ten of them this means I can assume many ages. Perhaps it’s my revenge on infertility, however pathetic, to ignite gapes of astonishment from my sisters at something I may have just said or done in the presence of their child. Perhaps I’m disturbed, but not nearly as disturbed (I hope) as Mavis, the troubled character Charlize Theron plays so exactingly in Young Adult. I’m still trying to figure out why she didn’t get up for an Oscar. Same with Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk about Kevin, Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia, or, for that matter, Ryan Gosling in Drive. Clearly this is not the year for the disturbed.
Young Adult is not a wry comedy, certainly not a romantic comedy, in fact, there were few laugh-out-loud moments in the film for me. More like winces and recoils. Mavis is nasty, deadpan, bitter, a late-thirties alcoholic lacking in scruples and a conscience and yes, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She is inside out, the unexposed, ugliest part of few of us. Perhaps in my mind I’ve fleetingly envisioned a run in with my ex-boyfriend, but it’s he who then proclaims his undying love for me; I don’t proclaim it for him, as Mavis does, with a manipulative, child-like abandon. And hers is no vision. It’s destructive, blind obsession and painful to watch, for her ex is happily married and has just had a child, and yet she truly believes they are meant to be together, the knowledge absolute, there twisting and churning beneath her aging, gorgeous beauty, her smoky, burnt out eyes. It’s the kind of young love that, when abused, leaves you running and angry and lost, the kind that, twenty years later and nothing to take its place, no child even, leaves you forever behaving like a child yourself, as if you were stuck in an infinite loop.