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The Devil and Brook Busey

Charlize Theron in Young Adult.  

The problem, if it’s a problem, is that her Cody persona makes for such an entertaining famous person: engaging, thoughtful, sardonic. There’s a reason she, not the actors, was the standout of the Juno press tour. She has a version of the Women Who Give Great Interviews dilemma (see Megan Fox and Katherine Heigl for the high-grade variety): Because of the anodyne state of celebrity reporting, in which tabloids are propaganda arms for the Kardashians and celebrities are PR-ed up to within an inch of their lives, anyone who says anything interesting immediately opens herself up to criticism. Cody says interesting things all the time, and the edges haven’t always been sanded off, like when she tells me, “There’s probably no experience more alienating than fame, other than a terminal illness, where you actually find yourself in a situation that nobody around you can relate to.”

This penchant for spiky honesty is one Cody channels through Adult’s Mavis, whom she wrote as an utter narcissist, unfulfilled and lonely, alcoholic, and inconsiderate, in a state of hideous arrested development. “I felt like there were a lot of movies out there about the man-child. It had become a kind of genre unto itself,” Cody says, referring to the films of Judd Apatow and his peers, from Knocked Up to The Hangover. “Everybody thinks the man-child is so funny and cuddly and lovable, but I thought there’s something sinister and disturbing about a woman who’s in the same place. I think this movie is the female companion piece to Greenberg. Noah Baumbach would probably slit his throat if he heard me say that.”

Young Adult arrives on a wave of films and television shows interested in the immature female. Bad Teacher, another movie about a beautiful, horrible blonde (Cameron Diaz), and Bridesmaids, about a much more likable headcase, arrived this summer, followed by several fall sitcoms focusing on oddball women, like Whitney, 2 Broke Girls, and New Girl, the last written by fellow Fempire member Liz Meriwether. Cody can’t explain the trend, but she does approve of it. “I believe in just having as many representations as possible of women onscreen … good, bad, shitty, whatever. There just needs to be volume. ”

To prepare for the role, Theron watched DVDs of My Super Sweet 16 and The Hills. These sorts of reality shows play in the background throughout the movie. To Cody, who watches them herself, they are essential to the film’s meaning. Referring to a scene in which Mavis, on the verge of seeing the emptiness of her life, is reminded that she’s prettier, better dressed, and more interestingly employed than most people, Cody says, “To her that’s the criteria for a superior human being. And that’s fucked up, because that’s obviously not true. People have always wanted to be recognized, and that’s human nature. But people used to want to be recognized for their accomplishments, and now they simply want to be visible.”

Having spent a few years being very ­visible, Cody—or perhaps Brook Busey—is now hoping to be recognized for what she actually creates. She starts shooting her directorial debut, Lamb of God, in the New Year. It’s about a devout Christian who ends up in Vegas, so she’s all but guaranteed to remain in the spotlight. As for whether it, or anything else, will make her feel accomplished: “Oh my God,” she says. “That’s not possible.”