The outrageous and heartwarming tale of Nick Twisp and his quest to win the heart of Sheeni and hopefully lose his virginity along the way.
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Youth in Revolt (PG) * * *
By ROBERT WALDMAN
Looking for love in all the right places just about sums up the theme for Youth in Revolt, a snappy somewhat sarcastic tale of romance from Alliance Films now fueling friction at the Esplanade 6, Empire Studio 12 and Colussus Cinemas. Different from those rather risqué sexploitation flicks thanks to a smart story you actually feel some sympathy for the plight of the lead in this hip story of a born loser.
Losing one’s virginity has been a long-standing theme for countless teen movies. Past efforts have usually stressed the more “physical” aspects of male/female stresses with comedy also coming into play on numerous occasions. Here director Miguel Arteta (Chuck & Buck) benefits from some up and coming likeable actors and some veterans who pack quite a punch.
Hot property Michael Cera (Juno) returns to the fore as Nick Twisp, playing yet again a nerd having all sorts of problems with his own sexuality. Put simply, Nick is not getting any. Anyone that’s seen any of Cera’s earlier efforts knows he’s perfect in this character though by now he’s really being stereotyped and needs to broaden his repertoire. Youth in Revolt is an ably constructed film that demonstrates just how desperate a teen can become when those hormones kick into overdrive and that oh so desperate urge must be satisfied, something we can all relate to
Family break-ups also play a key role in Youth in Revolt which shows just how in tune the story is to modern life as many homes face similar break-downs. On the California home front young Nick lives with his mom and a boyfriend or two. When the family heads for the hills for a brief respite their accommodations aren’t that lavish, to be sure. But on vacation things can happen and our Nick winds up in a spiraling downward situation largely inspired by a fellow vacationer.
At the camp grounds Nick meets Sheeni Saunders – cue the heavenly choirs. Smart and sassy and well presented by Portia Doubleday (18) Nick is clearly smitten by her presence. Wise beyond her years our Sheeni becomes an infatuation for Nick who is not exactly up to her standards in the maturation process. Seeing the pair begin to “bond” is well handled and truly endearing. Later on, however, things get completely out of control. Out of bounds we go as what looks like a nice romance turns cloudy and downright dark as bizarre twists and turns pop up constantly.
Dark comedies require good scripts and top talent to be pulled off successfully. Here the situations flow seamlessly and the atmosphere of trailer park trash where a love can blossom also hits home. Streaks of infidelity and Puritanism also up the ante in this robust tale of the missteps people can encounter on that truly rocky road to love.
Bouyed by smart muted cameos by the likes of character acting aces Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) and Steve Buscemi (Fargo) are the icing on the cake in this fun-filled look at people trying to connect with one another and the effects their friends have on those affairs of the heart.
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Youth in Revolt stars Michael Cera as Nick Twisp, the nebbish-gone-wild hero of Miguel Arteta's adaptation of C.D. Payne's cult-favourite novel of the same name. Trying and failing to win the attention of the sexually sophisticated Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), Nick is visited by the realization that he needs to create an alter-ego, an edgy bad-boy named Francois Dillinger. Francois has blue eyes and a moustache, he smokes, he trashes Nick's record collection and coaches him through a spree of arson, property destruction and sexual triumph.
The film, like Payne's book, is slightly… off, in a very good way, three quarters heart-warming, smart character study and one quarter aggressive comic nihilism. There's an edge here, a very very pleasant one. It's left-field humour and frankness about boners makes the film feels like the work of people who are interested in the film as a funny film rather than as a vehicle. It's old-fashioned, a little punk, a little tiny bit jagged and very funny. The cast is outstanding, including performances by Jean Smart, Fred Willard, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, Zach Galifianakis and newcomer Adhir Kalyan as Nick's partner-in-crime, Vijay. Arteta has filled the film, whose script is dense and literary, with more than enough visual humour and style to keep the film from getting too bogged down in its own witty verbosity.
Arteta (who rose to deserved indie prominence with the excellent Star Maps and Chuck & Buck) has found in Cera a really rare comic actor at a really rare moment; a genuine talent on the verge of deserved super-stardom. Cera absolutely mastered (at 15 or 16 seemingly) the smart-funny anxious and awkward comedy of sweaty palms and gawkish, aware nerd-hood, starring as cousin-loving Michael in "Arrested Development" and Evan in his breakout hit Superbad. He's doing similar things in the very funny Youth in Revolt but what matters, what's exciting, is that Cera seems willing to modulate his image (an image that's worth literally millions of dollars) by taking roles in films like Arteta's not-exactly-totally-run-of-the-mill teen sex flick and this past summer's very neat, very brave Paper Heart. His role in Youth in Revolt belies both a self-awareness and a willingness to take risks, to poke and twist his safe "Paulie from Juno" image. Which is why he's still funny, despite the occasional disaster (Year One, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist). It's suggestive of longevity and legitimate wit, and as somebody who wholeheartedly loves funny people in funny films, it's exciting.
My score: 8/10