Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review: Youth in Revolt

| by Allan Stackhouse |

If you were curious as to whether Michael Cera could do anything but that awkward mumbling character, let Youth in Revolt set your curiosity aside. I recall seeing C.D. Payne on a late night show some time ago and laughing to the point where usually only the likes of younger comedians could make me laugh. I put the book on my Amazon Wishlist and it got lost in limbo but I remember being excited about Michael Cera's casting. Now, with its recent release to Blu-ray, I decided to give the movie its due.

The movie delivered. It had humor, hysterics, and material that harkened to my youth. I don't know if women or people who didn't grow up in the Northern California Bay Area will get as much out of the film as I did but it's such a treat when films are about where you're from. The film accurately encapsulated the charm and slower feel that the Bay Area has and the subsequent feeling of needing to escape it. The only issue I have with the cities' depictions is Ukiah. It is not beautiful there. Nothing is there. I recall the people being actually very unpleasant. Maybe they're nicer by the beach. As far as Berkeley, I really enjoyed the small town depiction. Before I was old enough to get into bars, I remember walking around Berkeley with a friend or two and just soaking up the scenery. It does have slow college-town elements that the adventurous Nick Twisp sought to escape.

Michael Cera's performance as Nick Twisp was not the most confident of characters, similar to his previous roles, yet his character was determined and never mumbled. I don't think I ever was so curious about Michael Cera's acting ability that I wondered if he could do anything else. Since everyone else was so spiteful and curious about it, a spark of a question did grow in me but it was answered with Francois Dillinger. Francois Dillinger never mumbled. He was the ultimate ladies man who knows exactly what to say to get what Nick Twisp desires. Such a far reaching departure from George Michael Bluth was a welcome surprise.

The supporting cast was a little hit and miss for me. The normally likable Steve Buscemi was kind of just blah to me. I did enjoy Adhir Kalyan, Fred Willard, and Ray Liotta but Justin Long and Zach Galifianakis' characters were rather there just to be there. With their notoriety, I felt more could have been done with them. Again, this could be attributable to the need for the focus to be on Nick Twisp but it would have behooved the movie to develop these side relationships so that they would not seem so anecdotal.

The story is somewhat of a coming of age story but in a less obvious vajayjay Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and less over the top than American Pie Vol. 1-11. Coming from the perspective of a young boy whose desire is to lose his virginity, the default method seems to be slapstick. Youth in Revolt goes the route of determination, transpiring in the form of realistic challenges rather than the “You Laugh Now” type. While the goal of losing ones virginity is the same as other less intelligent films, the film rides more on the coming of age wave instead of the in your face sexual wave.

The stakes were constantly raised higher and higher in the film. When Nick's scheming come to a head, they really come to a head. After destroying part of Berkeley, Nick successfully gets himself sent to his father's in Ukiah to be with Sheeni Saunders. Sheeni, upon her grandfather's hearing of Nick's dangerous history, gets sent to a French boarding school hundreds of miles away in Santa Cruz. He drives to Santa Cruz and Nick comes close to his goal but is interrupted by the headmistress. With the plan of going to her foiled, Nick manipulates one of Sheeni's classmates to get her sent back to Ukiah. The plan is successful but the deceit is revealed upon Trent's, Sheeni's unseen until that point boyfriend, return to Ukiah. Nick's initial freedom from his crimes in Berkely catch up to him and he is eventually arrested, though not without a last ditch attempt to fake his own death. As you've read, the lengths that Nick will go to lose his virginity are quite lengthy. These alone are interesting enough but the constant decisions that Nick goes through draws intrigue to his quest.

While perhaps unable to draw the cult following of the book, Youth in Revolt as a film is still worth a watch. If you happen to enjoy Michael Cera at all, you will enjoy this film. His unexpected character departures were brilliant. He may not be in the market to be cast in the next Cameron Crowe movie but I for one am glad he found a role that proved his acting chops.

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