Sometimes an actor can do one thing well enough that they cease to actually play any character, they play a variation of it. John Wayne always played the “John Wayne” role in films because it’s what he was best at; one can argue that after early success he was typecast in roles that only allowed him that role, but there is no real deviation in Wayne’s characters or acting style. Even his portrayal of Genghis Khan in The Conqueror was vintage Wayne. Many other actors have fallen into the same category, including Michael Cera. Best known for a starring role on the cult television show Arrested Development, Cera has crafted a string of characters on TV and in film who are essentially the same. Youth in Revolt is no different.
Cera stars as Nick Twisp, a horny teenager desperate to lose his virginity. With everyone around him seemingly having sex at astonishing rates, Nick feels he’s missing out on something. Into artsy foreign films and listening to records, Twisp is an oddball. When fate conspires to put him into a trailer park with Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), a kindred spirit, it’s love at first sight. Problems arise when fate takes him away from the trailer park and back to Berkeley, California, and he devises a rather ingenious plan to do so: get thrown out of his mother’s house and back up north with his father (and Sheeni). But the way the film, and the book, does it is rather clever.
Instead of turning “bad boy” overnight, he devises an alternate persona named Francois Dillinger (also played by Cera). The sort of person he wants to be, with a thin mustache and constantly smoking a cigarette, Francois does all the things that Nick wishes he could do. Getting himself in enough trouble to get back to her, Nick finds himself in trouble with the law as well as everyone around him. The film hinges on the resolution to his problems but unfortunately has many of its own.
Youth in Revolt is trying to be edgy and satirical but doesn’t quite push the envelope as a film like this ought to. Rated R, the film has just enough edge and dark humor to get there but isn’t much dirtier then a PG-13 film. A few cuts and edits and it has the latter rating, which is a problem. This is a film that ought to be dark and crude, especially considering the source material and rating, that limps to it as opposed to rushing into it headstrong. It makes for a constant clash, but nothing like the clash between Francois and Nick.
The dual personas inhabiting the same body has been done before, and better, in films like Fight Club. Francois is a bad imitation of a true juvenile delinquent and is a testament to Cera’s development of his nerd persona so well that this is as far as anyone will let him go with this sort of character. Francois is a nice development but doesn’t quite develop in the way he ought to be; he might be “bad” but he’s a pale imitation of it. If Nick is such a nice guy, one would expect his supplementary persona (the one who does the things he wants to do) to be a bit more extreme then he turns out.
Interestingly enough the film is carried by the rather strong chemistry between Cera and Doubleday. It’s palpable and electric, as she’s a nice foil to Cera. Cera has usually had good chemistry with a female lead, from Superbad to Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist, and Doubleday is another in what’s becoming a long line of good actresses with which Cera works well with. It elevates lesser material to the point where it almost succeeds in becoming quite good.
The key word is almost, because Youth in Revolt ends up in that level of film is neither good nor bad. It’s a “watchable” film but one that doesn’t cross that borderline into a higher level of quality.
Director: Miguel Arteta Notable Cast: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday Writers: Gustin Nash based off the novel “Youth in Revolt” by C.D Payne
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.