If you’re looking for a revolution, look somewhere else. Youth In Revolt is, like most revolts in history, just a passing phase. Director Michael Arteta, best known for The Good Girl, tackles this adaptation of the book by the same name. The film stars Michael Cera as our protagonist Nick Twisp, Portia Doubleday as Sheeni, the object of his affection. An ensemble of great comedic actors round out the cast.
Nick Twisp is your typical movie teenage virgin, idealistic, naïve and desperate. The movie opens with Nick getting to know himself intimately. His room is full of Frank Sinatra records and he confesses he could listen to a Frank Sinatra love song at least once every hour of the day. His mother and her boyfriend (Zach Galifianakis) talk about him as if he is not in the room. You get the impression that Nick is a much more pathetic version of Michael Cera’s character from Super Bad. He eventually finds himself in a trailer park outside of Oakland where he meets Sheeni. After spending some time together, Sheeni informs Nick that it is best to end the relationship because he is the opposite of her ideal man. As a result he conjures up an alternate personality, Francois. He is the guy with the John Waters mustache you see in the trailer. Without revealing too much of the plot, Nick then goes on a journey to win Sheeni over completely.
Michael Cera really plays himself as Nick Twisp, and even as Francois, he never leaves himself behind. Going into the movie, I expected a much larger difference between the two personalities. Francois comes across as simply a more selfish version of Nick, rather than the dream guy Nick believes Sheeni wants to be with. It is the supporting ensemble that really stands out in this film. I found myself enjoying the scenes where any of the supporting characters had screen time more than any of the scenes with Nick alone, a result of Nick being a passive character. Though he is our protagonist, Francois and the supporting cast are the most active characters.
There are a large number of supporting characters in this movie and they are more crucial to the plot than Nick. Almost every supporting character is given a short introduction early in the film only to reappear, coincidentally, later in the film to help Nick achieve his goal. But for the most part, they are devices only--meant to act on behalf on Nick, who can not act for himself. For example, Nick's best friend in the film does little to propel the story or tell us anything new about Nick. I’m sure in the novel this character as well as the others play a larger role in the story and are better fleshed out. In the film, the actors, not the writing, make these characters at least enjoyable to watch.
The editing was a little staccato and some choices came off as playing for a laugh rather than propelling the story or characterization. Specifically, there are multiple animation sequences which not only don’t support the film, but rather hurt it. They pull the audience out the movie and in particular the first of these sequences reduces the film to being about sex, although it plays a large part in the movie it is about more than that.
Youth In Revolt, like a teenager, struggles to find its identity. It straddles the line of drama and teenage romantic comedy. Neither of the two is particularly well done. Yes, I did laugh and laughed hard in some places and reflected in some moments but all of these moments fade when the theater lights come up. Super Bad is far superior in both regards but if you need your Michael Cera fix go ahead and check out Youth In Revolt.