First Hit: Theron fully embodies this depressed disillusion woman’s journey to the past.
There were multiple great and wonderful scenes in this film and a couple of the ones that I thought captured the depth of the character were: When Beth’s (played by Elizabeth Reaser) band, Nipple Confusion, dedicated and played a song for Beth's husband Buddy (played by Patrick Wilson). This song was Mavis (played by Charlize Theron) and Buddy’s song in high school.
As the band and Beth played their heart out, Mavis’s face moves from one feeling to the another all encased with this semi stoic shocked looked. She was angry, hurt, and marginalized all in one place and time. All of these feelings were clearly transmitted to the audience.
Adding to the impact, her heart begins to beat so hard and strong with this pent up hurt and frustration and shock that that the gold heart necklace hanging around her neck starts to move with each beat of her heart.
Another amazing scene was the climactic scene where family and friends are at Beth and Buddy’s house for the baby naming party. Mavis goes off on everyone, especially Beth, noting that she thinks it should have been her and Buddy’s baby they were naming not Beth and Buddy’s.
A very rich scene carried off with pointed revealing clarity. I also loved her slightly off key singing of Buddy and her song over and over again as Mavis drove to her old town of Mercury, Minnesota to steal Buddy away from his current life and wife. The other strong story in this film is of another high school acquaintance named Matt (played by Patton Oswalt).
Matt had a locker next to Mavis but when they meet in an old bar, Mavis only really connects with who Matt is after he tells her that he was the guy all the jocks nearly killed because they thought he was gay (which he wasn’t). He is also caught in a life based on the past, but his is holding on to the pain of what was done to him by others.
These two continually meet up to share their depressed sadness with each other and the ore we watch them the more we know they are so very much alike.
Theron was amazing at embodying this depressed, alcoholic and living in the past character. The subtleties of her work through her expressionless and expressing eyes along with her body language was amazing. Reaser was perfect as Buddy’s wife. Confident in her relationship with Buddy and also with who she is made for a perfect character. Wilson was very good as the husband who really loves his wife and daughter along with being clear about what he was about. Oswalt was very strong as the guy who was holding on to his pain as a badge for his depressed introverted life. Louisa Krause played the hotel front desk girl so well she deserves a mention. Mavis’s Pomeranian dog was way too cute and deserves credit. Diablo Cody wrote a very strong crisp script. Jason Reitman directed this film cleanly and well getting the most of the script and actors.
Overall: I really enjoyed this film and realized at some time or another, people look back thinking that their high school days were where they were their best. This film shows you that this view probably isn’t true.