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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Youth In Revolt

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Youth in Revolt – Rebel with a Cause

For the first time Michael Cera is the featured “star” of a movie. The actor is used to playing geeky teenagers, so that isn’t a stretch for the twenty something actor. What is new, and a welcome turn, is the fact that in Gustin Nash’s screen adaptation directed by Miguel Arteta (Chuck and Buck, The Good Girl), of CD Payne’s 1993 cult novel, “Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp” Cera gets a chance to show some range and be a bit more edgy.

In Youth in Revolt, a coming of age film set in Northern California (but filmed in Michigan) Michael Cera portrays the titled character, Nick Twisp, a sex obsessed, lonely, 16 year old (he’s 14 in the novel) who is desperate to lose his virginity.

Nick’s parents are divorced but are, none the less, sexually active with new partners. Nick lives with his 48 year old mother Estelle (Jean Smart) a blonde bimbo with hair extensions and lots of cleavage, and her bearded, white trash boyfriend Jerry (Zack Galifianakis), while his father George (Steve Buscemi) cavorts with his much younger, 25 year old girlfriend Lacey (Ari Gaynor of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist).

When three sailors show up at Nick’s door seeking revenge after Zak sold them a lemon car for $900, the family decides to escape the wrath of the angry trio by heading off on a temporary vacation to a Christian themed trailer park in Ukiah. There, Nick meets the girl of his dreams, a smart, pretty, but pretentious Lolita type named Sheeni Saunders (newcomer Portia Doubleday) who lives in a two story trailer with her religious fanatic parents (Mary Kay Place and M. Emmet Walsh). Although not a virgin, she and Nick share a similar intellect and hip interests in old movies, old music and rebellious attitude towards their elders. Sheeni has an affinity for anything French, especially super cool and aloof types, like 60’s era film star Jean Paul Belmondo. Nick soon learns that the only way to win Sheeni over and make her forget her smug, poet boyfriend Trent (Jonathan Bradford Wright) is to become the kind of boy she goes gaga for, meaning he needs to get his “bad” on.

When its time to head back home and be separated from his newfound love, thanks to a suggestion from Sheeni, Nick comes up with a plan that would reunite them. Too meek to do the deeds, Nick creates a more confident and brazen alter ego in the form of Francois Dillinger (also portrayed by Cera), a pencil mustached, cigarette smoking, manipulating bad boy (inspired by the aforementioned Belmondo) who winds up leading him on a dark and humorous path of misadventures that involves lying, car theft, arson, drug use, cross dressing and being arrested by the police, all which are done for the purpose of winning Sheeni’s heart.

Side characters that add to the zaniness are Fred Willard as Mr. Ferguson, Nick’s anti establishment neighbor, Justin Long as Sheeni’s druggie brother, Adhir Kalyan as Nick’s new, equally horny friend Michael, and Ray Liotta as a cop who becomes Estelle’s replacement boyfriend after Jerry drops dead of a sudden heart attack.

The excellent supporting cast certainly brings some added flavor to the story and I would have liked to see more of Steve Buscemi and Justin Long, who are wasted in what are more akin to cameo appearances. However, it is indeed Cera, the star, who is required to carry the film, and he does so with gusto. As someone who never before saw anything special in the young actor, I will admit Youth in Revolt gives him the chance to show a multi layered acting ability. This film should open the door for more compelling roles for Cera, since he will eventually be too old to continue playing the same type of awkward teenager.

The dark comedy includes a mix of mean spirited humor revolving around one disaster after another, just plain absurd scenes meant to garner a laugh, plus a few that truly tickled my funny bone; especially the hilarious one with several characters stoned on magic mushrooms. Along with the solid cast led by Cera, I have to credit director Arteta for delivering an inventive take on the teen comedy genre.

“Youth in Revolt” is rated R for sexually explicit language and occasional x-rated animations that bring Nick’s fantasy thoughts to life.

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