Friday, January 15, 2010

Youth In Revolt

"Maybe I should write something first, then reward myself with coffee."

An adaptation of C.D. Paynes novel, which follows Nick Twisp - a less than confident boy- who upon meeting a girl vows to do any and everything in his power to have her... Even become someone else.

In reviewing this movie I am reminded of seven words that plagued me as a child, and even more as a younger man: "Good things come to those who wait."
Youth In Revolt stumbles out of the gate, leaving the audience to believe it's just another "awkward teen" titillation piece bent on showing anyone under 25 as as an intercourse obsessed psychopath driven only by the need to orgasm... Ok, well it kind of is exactly that, but in a way that strangely works. I think most who've made it out the other side can remember that awkward way that sex and love can become tangled up together. Half the time we couldn't tell which thought was which (a problem some adults still suffer from).
In a rather self aware way, Youth In Revolt captures that- and does so in, what is eventually, a hilarious way. Unfortunately you'll have to wait a bit to get there. Even more unfortunately, a few moments of that "bit" are the horribly off-putting opening scene of the film, and one of two jarringly out of place animated sequences.
Michael Cera, as the graceless Nick Twisp brings a tiny bit of new to a mack truck load of old. Conversely, he takes full advantage of his first opportunity to break his typecast as the unendingly clean and cold Francois Dillinger. The interplay between the two is always entertaining, and though I could have gone for more I think it's better I'm left wanting then wishing I had stopped a half hour ago. Also full of chemistry is Portia Doubleday as Sheeni Saunders, who plays the manipulative tease more accurately then anyone wants to admit they know. That you spend the entire movie trying pin whether she really is interested in Nick is a testimony to her performance- as it seems even Sheeni doesn't quite know for certain until the third act.
The beauty of both Twisp and Saunders (as well as characters like Vijay and Trent) is their fundamental satire. Almost all of the teenage characters are written in the most classically dramatic way possible, their dialogue presenting more like characters from Great Expectations than high school freshmen. This sets them beautifully at odds with their immature actions and the plain speaking parental/adult figures (who are all playe dby faces you'll know, though sadly they are underwhelming roles). That the movie is aware of this is made clear by the ending, as it begins cracking jokes at it's own expense and to my personal delight.
With all that said, there are some odd choices writer Gustin Nash made with Cera's character. I mentioned earlier he plays a dual role, Twisp and Francois Dillinger, a "supplementary" personality he creates because he feels he is not devious enough on his own to achieve his goals. However, both before and after this is done, there are scenes where Twisp- seemingly without the aid of his alternate self- rattles off witty retorts or spur of the moment manipulations that seem like they should belong to Dillinger. This of course is a relatively minor detail within Nash's otherwise well written adaptation, and wasn't nearly enough to spoil the rest.
That there's plenty of coarse (read:sexual) humor is without argument, but there are only a couple of times (one being that wretched opening) that it seems wholly uncalled for. There is enough clever scripting to warrant a few dick and fart jokes without the movie feeling like it's circling the bowl. If your sensitive to that sort of material however, I would suggest you start paying attention to the ratings system- as you probably shouldn't be seeing rated R movie in the first place.
Miguel Arteta's feature film follow up to The Good Girl is most definitely a departure in story, but not in it's quality. I'm sure that some of the humor will put viewers off, and anyone who goes in looking for another Superbad will leave sorely disappointed. Though Youth In Revolt lacks that movies uproariously funny nature, it gains in it's subtlety and tongue in cheek presentation. To say that Youth In Revolt is not for everyone is to offer neither praise nor demerit, but despite it's flaws Youth In Revolt most certainly was for me.

(That this is a sad under-use of Fred Willards talents could go without saying... but won't.)

The Reel Deal Recommends:
Juno: For Michael Cera in another movie that offers a bit more depth out of the high school comedy.
This is my first run-in with Portia Doubleday. Let me know if you have any recommendations.

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