Review: Youth in Revolt lacks rebelliousness

Review: Youth in Revolt lacks rebelliousness

Source: AssociatedPress

By: Jake Coyle

Critic's Rating: 3/5

Friday 08 January 2010

Movie Title

Review: Youth in Revolt lacks rebelliousness


Miguel Arteta

Star Cast

Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Zach Galifianakis, Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard, Ray Liotta, Justin Long

The ratios of Youth in Revolt are out of whack. Steve Buscemi and Zach Galifianakis are barely utilized, yet we get two Michael Ceras.

Cera plays Nick Twisp, a precocious Oakland, Calif., teenager who describes himself as "a voracious reader of classic prose" and refers to his mother's boyfriend (Galifianakis) as her "consort." He cherishes Frank Sinatra but has none of his suavity. He's a virgin, an issue, he says, that "can no longer be ignored."

On a summer trip to a trailer park in the country with his mother (Jean Smart) and her boyfriend, Nick falls for the beautiful Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), who has her own dreamy artistic crushes: Serge Gainsbourg, the French actor Jean Paul Belmondo.

After Nick's first sight of her (en route to the trailer park showers), we get a slow-motion shot ? the best in the film ? of him utterly dazed in the shower, with water falling slowly around him.

Though Sheeni has a boyfriend (whom she describes as a writer of "futurist percussive poetry") she entertains Nick as a summer fling. But to keep her as a girlfriend come fall ? and hopefully rectify that virgin problem ? she tells him that he must be "bad" and get himself kicked out of school.

Summoning such danger seems hopelessly impossible for Nick, who dresses in tight, slightly too small clothes and constantly crosses his arms daintily, like he's not quite sure what to do with them.

So he invents an alter ego, Francois Dillinger, a brash French playboy in shades, a pencil-thin mustache and an ascot. He makes Nick cause explosions and mayhem and make a more aggressive move for Sheeni.

Thus, with smart dialogue that calls attention to itself and a manifested devil-on-the-shoulder, Youth in Revolt is a bit like a combination of Juno and Fight Club. It's a good enough premise, but it comes off disappointingly.

Cera's search for the right material after his breakthrough on Arrested Development and in Superbad has been obvious to many and has increasingly found critics. There's a sense that he's going to a well of hipster cute a little too often (see Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist ? or rather, don't).

Unfortunately, playing two roles in Youth in Revolt only serves as a reminder of a lack of range. Cera is clever and romantic and has a knack for a deadpan delivery beyond most all actors his age or older. But he works better in more realistic work, where his subtlety is less showy ? like in his Web series Clark and Michael (still one of the best of the genre) or even Superbad, which was more naturalistic than it's been given credit for.

Unfortunately, there's little actual rebelliousness in Youth in Revolt. It's really justanother young-geek-wants-to-get-laid movie. (The film opens to the sounds of Nick masturbating while the camera settles on the cover of Sinatra's Nice `N' Easy)

Almost without exception, the adults are portrayed as either louts, bores or nuts. Buscemi plays Nick's father, who's given little more than anger or annoyance to play. Ray Liotta plays a police officer whom Nick's mother enterprisingly picks up when the other dies. Only Fred Willard, as a weird neighbor, gets to have a little fun, including a mushroom trip.

Working from C D Payne's popular original novel, director Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl, Chuck & Buck) inserts interludes of animation ? stop-motion and even claymation. The inventiveness, though, is overdone and feels like a Juno rehash. At this point, we must be passed exclaiming, "Claymation! How quirky!"

Areta's film has whimsy and a few great lines, but not enough originality.

Nick and Sheeni's artistic leanings are really only that. Sheeni isn't really the romantic that Nick is, and she ? confident and sexual ? is clearly out of his league. Doubleday, in her first real role, has an evident screen presence. She pulls Sheeni away from cliche idiosyncrasy and toward femme fatale, which would have been a better direction for farce.

It's a good instinct and one that Youth in Revolt could have used: Drop the faux clever shtick.

Youth in Revolt, a Weinstein Co. release, is rated R for sexual content, language and drug use.

Running time: 90 minutes

Rating: Two stars out of four

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