Youth in Revolt
Bottom Line: Nothing new, but entertaining coming-of-age tale.
“In movies the good guy gets the girl. In real life it’s usually the pr–k.” –Michael Cera as Nick Twisp
Directed by: Miguel Arteta
Starring: Adhir Kalyan, Ari Graynor, Erik Knudsen, Fred Willard, Jean Smart, Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, Zach Galifianakis
I can’t say I’ve never seen something like YOUTH IN REVOLT before. I’ve seen countless coming-of-age dramas, everything from the timeless classics (THE BREAKFAST CLUB) to the instantly forgettable (THE LAST SONG). There is absolutely nothing about the film that makes it anomalous in any way, shape, or form. There is, however, a wonderfully bittersweet taste that makes this seriocomic moral questioning so watchable.
YOUTH IN REVOLT is the study of character Nick Twisp (Michael Cera). He is a high schooler, wishing he wasn’t still a virgin and could one day meet the girl of his dreams. While vacationing in a trailer park for a week with his parents, he meets Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), the daughter of two religious freaks, and immediately falls in love with her. After spending some time with her, he learns that she already has a boyfriend and, on top of that, has a fascination with French culture. Nick desperately creates a mental companion named François, who gives him advice on what to do in order to win Sheeni’s heart. It seems most to all of these tactics, however, involve infringing upon the law and put him at risk of being arrested, giving him the decision to make as to whether he would rather go to jail or be without Sheeni.
What makes this film so interesting may just be how intriguing the main character is. He begins the film by clearly explaining to us how undoubtedly different he is, of course without saying it. Just the fact that he possesses a collection of vinyl records and has a fondness for Frank Sinatra should hint at this. The characterization is also a bit of a mixed bag, though. What feels a bit confusing about this movie is how far over the top his character is pushed. He seems like someone who would be more cerebral, more cautious of his actions, so once he has been established, the distance he goes to earn a relationship with the girl of his dreams seems quite unlike him.
The film has very melancholy bits and moods, but it is just as well a heavy-headed comedy. Nick has an inconsistent outlook on life, set against his consistent sarcasm. It’s funny to hear his witty, intelligent, state-the-obvious-when-no-one-else-notices-it jokes that seem to make him feel better about is life, his frustration, the fact that he cannot get a girlfriend, etc. The humor is additional, but not extraneous.
It’s the themes of YOUTH IN REVOLT that make it enjoyable, not its characters. A great coming-of-age drama would featre both intriguing themes and believable characters, which makes this film a bit uneven. Either way, it’s enjoyable, smart, and certainly worth a watch.