Everyone sees the Oscars as a great show of artistic backslapping and the opportunity to wear some rather nice dresses.

But as Charlize Theron, discovered, it can prove rather useful as a networking event as she wooed her latest director, Jason Reitman, amid all the coos of congratulation.

“I literally ran into him at the Oscars and told him how much I loved Up In The Air (starring George Clooney), it was my favourite film of that year.

“About a month later I ran into him again at a restaurant and he said ‘I read this script last night and it’s going to be my next film and I think you would be brilliant in it and let’s do this together..’

Charlize could have been less than flattered given the part in Young Adult he thought she was so perfect is described by another character as “ a psychotic Prom Queen bitch”.

“I love that line,” chuckles Charlize, 36.

“She is a real girl. There was definitely a lot of her that I could relate to – that I’ve seen in other people, that I’ve seen in myself.

“A lot of the things that she does that are so unflattering are things that all of us do to kind of get through the day, it’s really survival mode.

“The little lies and the way that she continually thinks that the grass is always greener on the other side.

“With her it’s extreme but there’s a truth in there that a lot of women recognise.

“And of course, there’s the loneliness. She is very lonely, even though she wouldn’t admit it to anyone, and I think every human being has experienced loneliness.”

Charlize plays Mavis, a self-absorbed writer with writer’s block and a divorce to her credit, who returns to her home town intent on rekindling a high-school romance, even if it means breaking up her former love’s family.

Offering a chorus of disapproval to her plans is another of her ex classmates, Matt, a victim of school bullies that she barely remembers.

While Mavis rose-tintedly views her high school years as her glory days, ones she wants to recapture, for Matt they hold little but bad memories.

“I think it is something we can all relate to. You are trying to fill the void with something and it’s usually with the moment that you think you were at your best, which sometimes isn’t the case,” says Charlize.

“This girl was so popular, she was what everybody thought that they wanted to be and yet as this character, Matt (played by Patton Oswalt) points out to her, ‘you really weren’t at your best back then..’

“He has some of the most crushing lines – because they are telling the truth.”

Written by Diablo Cody who won an Oscar for her first screenplay, Juno, it is a dark comedy. There is a bitter humour in the self-destructive Mavis’s schemings.

“I think the great success of the film is that people initially think that they won’t identify with a character who is this mean – and Mavis can be really mean – but they do,” says Charlize.

“Jason talks about how going to the movies is like holding up a mirror and seeing yourself. I believe that.

“I know that the films that move me are not necessarily the ones with characters that have these great attributes that I aspire to. It’s the ones that make me see the flaws, the not so pretty stuff.

“I think that’s why people, especially women, respond to Mavis.

For me that’s the cherry on the cake – the fact that women can actually see themselves in her and, let’s be honest, she’s not the most beautiful protagonist, in the sense of her heart and soul.”

And neither is Dior model Charlize looking at her most glamorous best in the movie. Though not quite on a par with the “monster” persona she created for her award-winning portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, in Young Adult she spends much of slopping about in sweatpants without a scrap of hair and make-up.

Yet despite the unattractiveness of Mavis’s personality – and her wardrobe – Charlize says that of all her roles, this is the one she would most like to revisit.

“It was just a joy,” says Charlize. “I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much.

“I loved being her and being in that world.

“This is challenging material. This character could be very scary and cringing and embarrassing but there was something about having Jason as a partner and the two of us just jumping off the cliff head first and going ‘this is what we’re going to do..’

South-African born Charlize’s own experiences of school seem to have been be the polar opposite of Mavis’s.

In an interview with People magazine she described herself as “pretty much a mess in primary school” where she had to wear “really nerdy glasses” because of her poor eyesight.

“Boys didn’t like [me]. I wasn’t in the popular crowd. There was a really popular girl at school and I was obsessed with her. I was in tears one day because I couldn’t sit next to her...”

But the ugly duckling has blossomed into one of the golden girls of Hollywood, and is now more philosophical about her formative years.

“I think I look back the same way that everybody does – with affection, embarrassment and cringe-worthy moments mingled with pure hatred.”