Friday, August 17, 2012


Harlequin Presents/Riva author Heidi Rice has an uncomfortable moment (or three) watching this caustic little cautionary tale starring Charlize Theron.

Charlize Theron is so not just a pretty face - being an actress who's wonderfully daring in the roles she chooses. Her Oscar-winner Monster - in which she was all-but unrecognisable as serial killer Aileen Wurnos - proved she could act her socks off when necessary. But I have to admit Young Adult - the tale of a small-town prom queen returning to the scene of her teenage crimes - features an even more impressive performance for me. Because while being a heartless b***h in this movie, Theron's performance also manages to be heart-breaking.

Theron's Mavis Gary is a woman still desperately clinging on to her youth... Not just her beauty but her immaturity. And she's managing it! But it's a full-time occupation, which has effectively left everything else in her life on hold since her teenage years. She's still viewing herself as the small-town girl made good. No matter that the series of young adult novels she ghostwrites has just been cancelled. No matter that her private life consists of haunting social media sites in her soulless Seattle apartment. No matter that her emotional development has arrested since High School. No matter that she's still got all the compassion and empathy of a teenage girl used to being the most popular and stamping on all thoses not in the in-crowd. Mavis is still beautiful (on the outside at least).

Now Mavis is an extreme example, but don't we all have a little of a Peter Pan complex? Don't we all remember our youth as slightly more magical than it probably was? And don't we all want to recapture just a little bit of that magic from time to time.... Well, here's the movie that shows you what happens if you do. And it is not pretty.

The story revolves around Mavis's return to her home town after recieving a birth announcement from her old High School boyfriend Buddy (Patrick Wilson) who's wife has just had their first child. Seeing the opportunity to recapture her youth - by recapturing Buddy - Mavis gets all dolled up and starts insinuating herself in Buddy's private life where his sweet and clueless wife happily welcomes her. But despite still being stunning, Mavis, unlike everyone else - including high-school outcast Matt who she forms an unlikely friendship with - hasn't grown up. What happens is both caustically funny at times and also desperately sad. I ended up pitying this woman despite all her faults (and they are legion).

Theron's performance is brave for being so unfailingly unsympathetic. This is not a woman you would want to identify with - and yet it's written so brilliantly by Juno writer Diablo Cody you can't help doing just that.

Frankly, an offbeat little gem of a movie, that I would highly reccommend, especially if you're feeling a mite too nostalgic for your youth.

Heidi is eagerly awaiting the relaunch of Riva in the UK - with a brand new version of Cupcakes and Killer Heels soon to be available in WH Smiths. In the US, her latest Harlequin Presents Extra, The Good the Bad and the Wild, is still available online. Catch up with all her other news on Twitter (@HeidiRomRice), her blog, her website and Facebook.

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