Youth In Revolt Review: A Minor Uprising
We’ve all felt at times that we just don’t fit in.
If you’re like me, since you were a teenager you’ve always dreamed that your unpublished genius and insightful critiques would one day be the toast of the literary world.
So has Nick Twisp (Michael Cera), a mild-mannered 16 year old who likes Frank Sinatra, Fellini movies and girls. Unfortunately, he’s astutely realised that this combination of interests is likely to mean he will remain a virgin forever.
He lives with his promiscuous mother (Jean Smart) and her “consort” Jerry (The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis) a loudmouthed, beer-guzzling layabout and occasionally visits his father (Steve Buscemi) who despite being a balding letch is unaccountably successful with 19 year old stunners.
On a chance trip to Ukiah (Jerry needs to flee town in order to escape the wrath of some sailors that he mis-sold a car to), he meets Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), a Francophile paragon of teenage loveliness and more than a match for his intellectual capabilities.
Unfortunately, Sheeni has fundamentalist Christian parents and a boyfriend – a six foot two champion swimmer named Trent who writes “futurist percussive poetry”. Nick, desperate not to be outgunned on the battlefield of love, invents a separate persona for himself, a wispy-moustached Gallic bad boy named Francois Dillinger who is all the things he isn’t – outspokenly rebellious, wilfully disobedient and sexually confident. He’s like a teenage Tyler Durden.
Nick quickly resolves to do anything to win Sheeni’s approval and with the guiding hand of Francois he destroys property, steals cars, conducts blackmail and becomes his town’s best known arsonist.
The best thing about Youth In Revolt is its characters – Nick’s shrewd observations delivered via wry voiceovers are frequently hilarious and perfectly suited to Cera’s everyman charm and the chemistry he has with Portia Doubleday leads to some touching and snappy dialogue. It’s also full of some great performances by its supporting cast, notably Justin Long as Sheeni’s stoner brother and Fred Willard as his activist neighbour.
But it’s when Nick’s alter ego Francois starts destroying property and enacting madcap schemes to get what he wants, that it veers sharply towards “silly”. It’s here that it start to run out of steam and abandons the character-based comedy in favour of action set pieces and dorm room titillation.
Nick Twisp is certainly a character that anyone who’s been a geeky teenager can relate to and Youth In Revolt is a likable and amusing comedy. It’s just a shame that director Miguel Arteta decided to steer a film that started off so clever into the realms of stupidity.