Youth in Revolt Directed by: Miguel Arteta Cast: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Zach Galifianakis, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, Steve Buscemi Running Time: 1 hr, 30 mins Rating: R Release Date: January 8, 2009
PLOT: A tale about a young man whose reserved nature keeps the world at a distance. It isn't until his awkwardly strewn together family is forced to go-into-hiding that he meets a young woman (from a similarly atypical family) who reawakens his lust for life and the possibilities that come along with falling in love. She's a challenge, and while this proves too much for him, the young introvert creates a French (English-speaking) alter-ego to help him woo for into his life. This, as expected, proves to only add intrigue to the story, rather than make his courtship of her easier.
WHO'S IT FOR? Not sure if this is for straight-up SuperBad fans. Cera's resume includes films that cater to the every(young)man in all of us but this story hits closer to the heart than to the imagination. Though Cera's Nick Twisp DOES create a bizzaro-world version of himself, this is more chick-flick than fluff film about male adolescent lust. Think Chasing Amy meets Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.
EXPECTATIONS: As a Cera fan, I was expecting more of the same. The kid's got talent, but his range as an actor has peaked an interest only because he usually seems to play slightly altered versions of himself. In this one, he gets to play TWO very different versions... So I was very nervous to see the results.
Michael Cera as Nick Twisp and Francois Dillinger: If cinematic charisma relied solely on deadpan sarcasm, and sharp wit, Michael Cera would have already have bagged two Oscars. This is an actor who has made awkward the new black, and reconfigured the mold of "young American Hero" in the process. As a split-personality casanova, Cera excels because he's (a) super-likable already, and (b) very funny as a mischievous villain/Don Juan created solely to court a bad-boy-chasing young lady. Nick Twisp is a loner who embraces being a loner, that is until he lays eyes on Sheeni Saunders (Doubleday). His sudden need to attain her sparks Dillinger's creation in the first place. The interactions between Cera, and... Cera are the films nucleus, and a fine display of acting from the supposedly one-dimension young actor. Score: 7
Portia Doubleday as Sheeni Saunders: Think a young Natalie Portman. Doubleday was a virtual unknown before this film, and will no longer be declared as such. She possesses a raw charm most young actresses only think they have... because their agents promote them as such. It's a tough task to carry the load of, "fresh, young ingenue" without looking like you're trying to hard to be sexy AND innocent. She's a film, or two away from being able to carry a film herself, but what we see in Sheeni Saunders is a good indication that we'll be seeing a lot more of Portia Doubleday in years to come. Score: 7
TALKING: This is where the film gains and loses its charm. I'm all for hip, witty dialogue, but this trend of lending teen-leads entire dictionaries of sharp diction is a tad old (maybe I am too). Teenagers don't talk like these two. Maybe that's the whole point - That they're destined to find one another because no other teens can understand them, but they sound like graduate students, and parade about as underachieving twenty-somethings, not sixteen-year-old love birds who ink each other's names into their backpacks, and get jazzed about attending a homecoming dance. Score: 4
SIGHTS: Rural... somewhere. A sorta beautiful/sorta drab trailer park provides most of the backdrop for a film about highly-intelligent descendants of underachievers. In a cinematic sense, the Cera vs. Cera dynamic looks amazing in-so-much as it actually appears he has a twin with blue eyes, and a less-than-believable-too-still-entirely-enthralling moustache. Score: 6
SOUNDS: The soundtrack passes the hipster test, as well as the I-sort-of-listened-to-and-enjoyed-the-Dave-Matthews-Band-for-a-stretch-in-the-late-nineties-subgroup. Despite the pretentious allusions to obscure French music (by the film's two witty leads), there's some very radio-friendly tunes that may make it all the way into your summer soundtrack. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: Every scene in which the Cera/Cera team appears in unison. There's something about watching him actually pull off "rebel cool" that's fascinating, and altogether satisfying.
ENDING: You'd have to have been locked in a cage, sans television, or relative knowledge of film history, to not see what's coming.
QUESTIONS: Will it make enough money to further boost Cera's (cough) leading man career?
REWATCHABILITY: Most will find it necessary to add this to their DVD/Blu-Ray libraries. Rightfully so. It's worth a second/third look.
If the cast isn't enough to lure you to theaters, please trust the film's actually far more than tolerable. Everyone from Cera and Doubleday to Ray Liotta (whose very minor role inspires a bulk of the film's intelligent comedic moments) does their part to keep the film interesting even when it wanes into "chick flick" territory. Sure, the story may be a tad unbelievable, but there's a reality to the film that hits closer to home than you may expect going in. Will it win a slew of awards, and become the overrated phenomenon Juno did? Probably not, but there's just enough of a hook to keep you entertained.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10