EXPECTATIONS: Okay, stop me if you've heard this one. Michael Cera plays a hopelessly meek teenager who's looking for love when- oh.
REALITY: Well ladies and gents, it's January, or as it is known in the film industry, Garbage Day. After a long holiday season during which the film industry releases all its award-winning pictures in theaters that are likely nowhere near where you live, Hollywood clears all the clunkers from its shelf as a way of saying "Fuck it, just go see Avatar again." The knowledge that the Miguel Arteta film Youth in Revolt (based on the novel of the same name by C. D. Payne) has been gathering dust for a year or more plagued me as I went to the theater, anticipating that I was entering the belly of the beast known as crap cinema. So take my word for it when I say that Youth in Revolt is, well, it's not half bad.
Michael Cera stars as a dreadfully nerdy sixteen year-old named Nick Twisp (with a name like that, I don't think you have a choice other than to be a dreadfully nerdy sixteen year-old). Living with his divorced mother and her boyfriend,
Michael Cera Nick wastes his days listening to classic '50s tunes, watching movies from the Criterion Collection and beating it between intervals of writing on his computer. Christ, it's like I'm staring into a mirror.
Anyway, Nick's loveless existence takes a turn when he gets dragged along on a mobile home trip by his mother and her boyfriend, who is attempting to avoid the sailors he ripped off on a car deal. On the trip,
Michael Cera Nick meets Sheeni (Portia Doubleday), who's essentially the female incarnation of Nick himself, except for the fact that she's physically desirable. The two of them hit it off during conversations about French cinema and Frank Sinatra, and before you know it, Sheeni falls for Michael Cera Nick, but by the time they start really hitting it off, Nick needs to return home with his family. The only hope he has of staying with Sheeni is to somehow coerce his mother into letting him live with his father, closer to where Sheeni lives. In order to do this, he must become, as Sheeni tells him, "bad."
To accomplish this, Nick creates a "bad boy" alter-ego for himself named François Dillinger, also played by
Nick Twisp Michael Cera, who is supposed to be a mustachioed, sunglasses-wearing cigarette-smoking tough guy of the Le Samouraï variety, but who looks and acts more like the kind of guy who is prohibited by law from living and working near schools and day care centers. What ensues is a series of disastrous and sometimes hilarious events that takes Nick on a quest to reunite with his love.
Michael Cera spends his Christmas break growing what he calls a mustache. They still won't serve him beer.
I won't lie, Youth in Revolt got quite a few laughs out of me. Michael Cera plays these roles well, and the film's other players (Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta and Justin Long) all get their own little scenes to steal. Regardless, I couldn't shake the feeling that I had been here before, watching a nerdy antihero on a quest to get a little tail while fighting off handsome jocks, conservative disapproving parents and shameless mothers and fathers that just don't understand. Many of the film's comedic bits feel as though they've been lifted from other teen comedies: There's the drug trip bit, the wander-around-in-public-in-your-underpants bit, the escaping-from-the-girl's-dormitory bit. All these bits got laughs out of me, but I never found them funny in an impressive sort of way, just in a fairly well-executed sort of way.
Also, in typical awkward-indie-journey fashion, many of the characters that Nick meets exist for no purpose other than to inject some cheap quirkiness. One of Nick's friends, who supposedly has a long but crooked penis, appears just so we can have some laughs at the expense of his naiveté regarding sexuality, all of which adds nothing to the story. A bit where Nick buys a dog for Sheeni was played up as if it was going to be an important plot point, but nothing ever becomes of it, other than the excuse to have a couple of sight gags. By the time we reach the third act, the dog is gone, as if he never existed in the first place.
Youth in Revolt is worth a matinee viewing, but don't expect something revolutionary. It's a Michael Cera nerd comedy, and it pretty much plays out that way. I understand that Cera plays these roles well and has a lot of success with them, but I can't help but wonder how long he'll be able to keep it up before the filmgoing public has had its fill of his sex-hungry super-nerd shtick. I'm not saying that he should put on a few pounds of muscle and star in some Rambo-style action movie in which he tears fascists apart with a machine gun while grunting long monologues about honor and duty, but if he did, I'd pay good money to see it.
|Michael Cera||One is enough|
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