Last week I saw the new indie film Young Adult. Written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman, it follows the odd little journey of young adult lit author Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) back to her hometown.
It was a fantastic movie full of interesting characters and great acting. The thing is, the main character is not likeable in any way. She is an immature, selfish, largely amoral woman who has let a moderate amount of success go to her head. She’s definitely pitiable, but not someone you’re going to root for. It’s a testament to the top-notch writing, acting and directing that the film is enjoyable with such a lead character, although there are some moments that are uncomfortable to watch.
At the end of the film, after an emotional breakdown, Mavis has a chance to change her life, to stop the downward spiral. After being enabled by another character, however, she chooses not to seize the opportunity. That got me thinking about how there are so few truly irredeemable characters in film. Here are a few of my favorites:
Frank (Henry Fonda) — Once Upon a Time in the West
When the film was released, the actions of the unrepentant murderer Frank were even more shocking because he was played by Henry Fonda, who had been mostly cast in heroic, all-American roles.