This is a story about a thirty-something woman who attempts to go back to the small town where she went to high school to re-kindle a lost love. Charlize Theron is the character of Mavis Gary. She left her small home town of Mercury after graduating high school, moved to Minneapolis, and made good by becoming a moderately successful professional writer. She writes for a series of romance novels aimed at young adult females. The series was once popular but has now faded in popularity. She has been commissioned as a ghostwriter to write the final book in the series.
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Even though her life should be a fantastic success, she is bored, lonely and finds everything about her life unsatisfying. She has only meaningless casual sex with men, and drinks very heavily. Her only companion is a little Pomeranian dog called "dulce."
She gets a surprising email from an ex-boyfriend from high school named Buddy Slade (played by Patrick Wilson) announcing the birth of his new baby daughter. She starts to fantasize that maybe there could be something that she could re-kindle in the relationship. She goes back to Mercury to see if she can get Buddy away from his wife. In a bar, she meets another man Matt Freehauf (played by Patton Oswalt) who went to her high school with her at the same time years ago. He was a fat kid that everyone, including her, mistakenly thought was gay which led to him being almost beaten to death by jocks from the high school leaving him permanently scarred and damaged. Mavis gets drunk and tells Matt of her plan to seduce Buddy and get him back. Matt tells her this is a very bad idea, because Buddy is happily married with a new child. She is not discouraged by this, in fact she makes plans to see Buddy alone in another bar the very next day.
Buddy meets her in the bar as planned. Buddy is obviously just meeting her as an old friend but she flirts with him. On the way leaving Buddy mentions his wife is in a rock band and they will play a gig the next night at the same bar so he invites Mavis back. Mavis comes the next night. The band, made up of all women who have recently had babies, is called "Nipple Confusion." They are not very good. They play the favorite song that Mavis remembers, that Buddy used to perform when he was in a rock band during high school. Mavis tries to seduce Buddy but he rebuffs her. Buddy wants to go home but his wife is not ready to leave. Because Buddy is so drunk, Mavis offers to drive him home. Buddy and Mavis share a kiss in front of Buddy's house witnessed by the baby-sitter.
Mavis is so encouraged by the kiss she thinks Buddy has feelings for her. When Buddy invites Mavis to his house for a party where they will name the baby, Mavis feels certain Buddy wants her again. Mavis goes to the party, gets Buddy alone and makes the moves on him. He pushes her away, goes back to the rest of the party. She follows him. Buddy announces that everyone should come outside to see the new drums he bought for his wife.
Everyone at the party goes outside. Mavis causes a scene and fights with Buddy's wife in front of everyone. Buddy confesses that the only reason he invited Mavis to the party is because his wife insisted and everyone feels sorry for her but his truly happily married and wants nothing further to do with her.
Mavis realizes why she left the small town in the first place, drives back to the big city, finishes the book by killing off the lead guy (who is symbolically Buddy in her mind) and decides to get on with her life as a true adult.
Best part of story, including ending:
Many people fantasize about going back to high school to do things differently, so this story is easy to relate to.
Best scene in story:
It is a great scene when she has "pity" sex with her geek friend that went to high school with her. She gives him the experience of his high school fantasy because she likes how kind he has been to her.
Opinion about the main character:
Mavis is stuck in time, emotionally stopping her inner development at around the time she left high school and was still in the small town. Her career writing for young adults also contributes to why she is stuck in her emotional immaturity, so it is understandable.