I’m going to start off by saying that Diablo Cody is the most overrated screenwriter in Hollywood. I thought Juno was good, but a flawed film. The main flaw being that – no teenage girl acts that way; especially during all the things happening in her life (getting pregnant, going to get an abortion, trouble with her boyfriend, etc.).
Cody’s second film Jennifer’s Body got bad reviews. I didn’t see it, but I caught a few episodes of her Showtime series United States of Tara and didn’t like it.
Now we get a character study about a former prom queen who is in her late 30s, has a drinking problem, and has decided she’ll go back to her small Minnesota town to win back her high school sweetheart. It doesn’t matter to her that he just had a baby, and might possibly be happy in his marriage.
It doesn’t seem to matter to Cody that if you write a movie like this, you have a few problems. If you want to make a serious drama that is a dark comedy, that’s fine. You just need to have more jokes that work. It would also help if you make a protagonist that isn’t this unlikable. Very few movies have pulled that off, and in this – we basically only have one scene in which we feel any sympathy for her.
Charlize Theron is great in this role. Nobody ever doubted her acting (she got an Oscar for Monster).
I was glad Patton Oswalt was cast as the former high school nerd who Theron forms an unlikely bond with.
He’s a terrific stand-up, and he had an amazing performance in Big Fan a few years ago, as the sad sack football fan whose big joy in life is calling sports talk shows.
I liked some of the subtle scenes this movie had.
When Theron shows up in her old hick town, with 4 Non Blondes playing on the radio, she looks at a Staples and Chili’s on the main street as if she were right to leave such a one-horse town.
The problem is that for every scene Cody writes that I enjoyed, there were three that I don’t like.
And why are characters wearing Pixies or Breeders shirts, or a Vandals poster on the wall? It’s trying to hard for the hip factor. Now, don’t get me wrong…I don’t mind hearting Dinosaur Jr. or Veruca Salt on the soundtrack. And I chuckled at a band that consisted of a bunch of housewives in a local juke joint with their band Nipple Confusion. I just wish they would’ve taken it down a notch in the hip department.
The cast is rounded out with Elizabeth Reaser (Twilight), Collette Wolfe (Hot Tub Time Machine, a guilty pleasure of mine), and Patrick Wilson as the former boyfriend Theron wants back. He may be a bit paunchy and unshaven, and his conversations a bit dull…but we can chalk that up to him having a new baby.
I think it was a smart move making him a nice guy. He often plays characters with a bit of slimeball (I loved him in Little Children, a movie in which the adults acted like children…here, a woman in her 30s acts like a Young Adult).
Director Jason Reitman (son of Ivan) seems to get praise for everything he does. They’re all good movies, but not great. That list would include Juno, Up in the Air, Thank You For Smoking).
Since Theron is so evil and she’s an admitted alcoholic – it makes it hard to watch the downward spiral and evilness that spews from her. Sometimes you can watch characters like this (Hud and Leaving Las Vegas come to mind)…but where Cody gave the Juno character wit she shouldn’t have had – we get no wit from Theron. We have a blast watching Larry David run around angry, because he’s funny. Had Theron had some interactions with the many people she ran into, in fast food restaurants or at the salon, the way she did when she told her plan to the woman selling the dress to her…that would’ve been more interesting.
Her conversations with Oswalt are interesting most of the time. He sometimes called her on the craziness of her actions, but they don’t pack the same punch as when a character in Beautiful Girls returns a bit drunk, to her high school reunion, only to have a nerdy guy tell her she was mean to him in high school and that she was a real snake. She left the reunion hurt.
I think the Oswalt relationship worked, but the sister character was ridiculous and didn’t seem authentic.
If I want to see characters that haven’t gotten passed the high school years, the humorous Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion has this beat by a long shot.
The scenes where Theron is trying to ghostwrite for a teen lit book is a bit interesting, but more could’ve been done with that, too.
I hate the fact that I have to give this 3 stars out of 5, because it’s such an uneven movie that’s surprisingly predictable and could’ve been so much better. I was entertained enough watching it, the same way I was with Juno, that I can’t give it a lower rating.