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My Lunch With Charlize Theron of Young Adult

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Young Adult logo and photo

Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron is the star of the new black comedy, Young Adult.

I have always liked tall, attractive, intelligent women, so obviously I have been enchanted with Charlize Theron. The actress is quite tall, stunningly beautiful, and delightfully intelligent. With a repertoire of almost 40 films, she first became noticeable to me in a long-ago film, North Country, where she played a single mother/female coal miner fighting for equality on the job. Then came her brilliantly horrific Oscar-winning portrayal in Monster (2003), where she put on 40 pounds, shaved her eyebrows and wore prosthetic teeth for the role of a killer. I loved her in a small film, In the Valley of Elah (2007), where she played a no-nonsense, no make-up police detective. After taking a sabbatical for three years ("I was happily busy doing other creative things"), she is back in a stunning new movie, Young Adult, and I am delighted to report that it is a real winner in every respect. In it, she plays 37-year-old Mavis Gary, who left her small town in Minnesota to come to the big city of Minneapolis in search of a writing career. When we meet her, she is now a dysfunctional, divorced alcoholic (albeit sometimes beautiful) writing young adult fiction and sinking deeper into the depths of delusion. Hearing that her high school boyfriend has just had a baby with his new wife, she decides to go back to her hometown and win him back. As I said, severely delusional.

Writer Diablo Cody and Director Jason Reitman

The film's writer, Diablo Cody, and the director, Jason Reitman.

When I received an invitation from Paramount to attend a morning screening and then go to lunch with Charlize, co-cast member Patton Oswalt, writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, I grabbed at the opportunity. (The fact that the meal would be at Wolfgang Puck's splendid CUT in the Beverly Wilshire made the offer even more irresistible.) My fellow Academy and press attendees all agreed that the movie was 'disturbing in the best of ways, sometimes wildly funny and often sad and wrenching.' I had an opportunity to speak to the director, Jason, telling him that I have known his father, Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters), for many years. Jason and writer Diablo Cody (don't you just love that name) had teamed previously on the wonderful Juno, for which Cody won an Oscar, and I had an opportunity to ask the writer what she thinks happens to Mavis after the film ends when she returns to her failing job and sad life in the big city. Diablo said she just goes on, falling further into despair... but perhaps having learned something useful from the recent hometown experience. I commented to her that any guy with a long dating record (unfortunately, such as me) will recognize the characteristic signs of such a mixed-up woman. In the question-and-answer session which followed lunch, I was able to ask Charlize about her experiences in high school, and she told us that she had attended a very strict girl's school in her native South Africa and wanted to be a ballet dancer. I made a mental note of her journey from there when, after a very tragic incident involving her mother and father, she came with her mom to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. I do remember that she was discovered by a talent agent at a local bank while she was arguing with a teller.

Charlize arrives at luncheon

Charlize arrives at the luncheon and greets all of the guests.

Robert Loggia with Patton

Co-star Patton Oswalt takes a photo with my tablemate, Robert Loggia.

I would be remiss if I didn't make note of the wonderful performance of Patton Oswalt as her fellow high school student, Matt, who had been savagely beaten by some bullies and was almost a cripple. He encounters Mavis when she returns and provides the cynical, charming and logical balance to the film... while making illegal bourbon in a still in his garage. As he says to her wryly, "Guys like me were born loving women like you." At the end, after Matt's sexual encounter with Mavis, his sister provides the coda to the film in a speech to Mavis after her climactic drunken encounter with the town at the baby's christening. "We all admired you so much when you left and got a career in the city. Please take me back with you, Mavis.")

I would also be remiss if I didn't applaud the cinematic courage of these intrepid filmmakers in depicting a very disfunctional leading character at the beginning of this black comedy... and instead of trying to portray an "arc of character," we find her at the end almost as dysfunctional while we the audience were entertained and, yes, provoked by this adventure. As one reviewer said, "It's like watching a train wreck unfold on the screen." Diablo told me that she was a little surprised that the picture got made almost exactly as she wrote it. "There was no pressure on me for redemption or 'she sees the light.' I don't think people change that much." At which I murmured something -- that I hope none of them changes. They are doing great work!

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