Miguel Arteta is a director I thought I knew but it turns out he hasn’t done all that many movies that I’ve actually seen. The Good Girl was okay, Chuck & Buck is dark and fantastic (and I recommend it to anyone who can squirm uncomfortably through it) but that’s all I have seen from the man. And now this.
Youth In Revolt is a bit of a strange beast. It is, I suppose, a teen movie but it’s one of the smarter teen movies that provides some great entertainment for older audience members who can tolerate the more hip, smartass script moments. It is also, as the Empire quote on the DVD cover states, “a cross between Superbad and Fight Club”.
Michael Cera stars as Nick Twisp, a young man who realises that he’ll never get a girl he has fallen hard for (Sheeni, played by Portia Doubleday) unless he makes some major, drastic changes. To put his plan into effect he creates the alter-ego known as Francoise Dillinger and Francoise doesn’t let any little thing like morality, social acceptability or politeness get in the way of what he wants.
Once again, Michael Cera turns in an enjoyable performance that isn’t going to win over anyone who hates his onscreen, nerdy persona. He also, however, gets to do something a little bit different when he acts as Francoise and the entire movie relies on his comedic touch and performance, which I happen to be a big fan of. The rest of the cast are all almost as good. Doubleday is both likeable and also clearly manipulative as the object of Nick’s affections. Jean Smart is very good as Nick’s mother, a selfish woman also sad to watch because she’s simply so desperate for love that she puts up with more than most women would. Steve Buscemi has a small, important role as Nick’s dad and Fred Willard is amusing in his small role, too. Zach Galifianakis and Ray Liotta are excellent as the very different boyfriends of Nick’s mother and with the addition of Justin Long, M. Emmet Walsh and Mary Kay Place to the cast it’s a solid ensemble. Erik Knudsen isn’t too bad as Nick’s friend, Lefty, and Adhir Kalyan is excellent as Vijay.
The script, written by Gustin Nash and developed from the novel by C.D. Payne, is very good though every line of dialogue is buoyed by the performances of the actors.
Having said that, the script contains many gems, usually from the lips of “Francoise”, like the following: “I’m gonna wrap your legs around my head and wear you like the crown that you are”. It’s also ironic that Nick reminds us at the beginning of the movie: “In the movies the good guy gets the girl. In real life it’s usually the prick.” In Nick’s attempts to get the girl he views as his true love he does, essentially, transform himself into “the prick”.
The direction from Arteta is just fine. There are no dull patches and a couple of sequences are rendered in stop-motion animated form to move things from A to B. The movie, superficially, plays out like many other teen comedies and contains a number of intelligent teens that never seem to exist in real life but the fact is that a) versions of these people do exist in real life and b) the movie manages to have its cake and eat it by also quietly mocking the very characters that we’re watching and/or rooting for. It’s a shame that those who hate Michael Cera will simply continue to do so as this is a very good comedy.
DIRECTOR: MIGUEL ARTETA
STARS: MICHALE CERA, PORTIA DOUBLEDAY, STEVE BUSCEMI, ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, RAY LIOTTA, JUSTIN LONG
RUNTIME: 90 MINS APPROX