Youth in Revolt is a film I regrettably missed while it was in theaters, but for a film that I had some interest in, it came and went quickly. Despite this, I have heard many positive things from people who I trust, so I am definitely glad it has hit DVD and Blu-Ray.
Overall, the movie is funny, but not quite as inventive as I was hoping for or expecting. I can’t help but feel what the film was labeling charm felt much more like pretension — name-dropping classic Fellini doesn’t make your film smart! I did very much enjoy the short animation sequences, even if they did nothing to actually progress the plot. Now all of this would have felt much more acceptable if the film was supposed to be mocking or parodying this new-school teenage pretension, but I never got that sense. And through most of the film I couldn’t help but thinking how amazing this movie could have been if helmed by Michel Gondry or Spike Jonze.
Anyone who has seen the trailer or poster for Youth in Revolt knows that the film’s major appeal is the subversion of the Michael Cera screen persona. Before the creation of Francois Dillinger, Nick Twisp is the kind of socially inept nerd reserved entirely for the movies. He loves Frank Sinatra and claims his favorite film is Tokyo Story (although he misnames the director). In other ways, he is not so unlike his character in Superbad — he is witty and not uncomfortable by conversations involving male genitalia. The problem is, the film doesn’t quite set up a character who would necessarily be the hopeless life-long loser-virgin. He may be more hip during the college years, but being reasonably attractive and pretentiously hip, there would be plenty of cute girl-nerds for him to spend time necking with. And hell, if I can get a stable girlfriend, Nick Twisp certainly has a chance. Francois Dillinger is as much the movie “cool guy” as Nick is the movie nerd. I do find it funny that a character created to help him get women actually gives him little-to-no advice about women in lieu of getting him into trouble (not to mention he was doing just fine with his dream girl before he found it necessary to create the alter ego). Francois’s first interaction with Sheeni, filmed with Nick looking on stunned, is one of the funnier moments of the film — using the dual-character dynamic to its full extent. With all of that said, although Michael Cera isn’t stretching too far in either role, I still think he is incredibly fun to watch and he handles both characters well.
Arteta surrounds the two young stars with a stable of some of the best working character actors, including M. Emmet Walsh, Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Long and Ray Liotta (used much better here than in Date Night). None of these fine actors give anything remotely close to the best performances of their fine careers, but it was nice seeming the ensemble and I have no idea how this film got them all together.
Although not the daring comedy I was looking for, Youth in Revolt gets enough laughs and is saved by a good ensemble cast. If you are a fan of Michael Cera’s previous work (Superbad, Juno) you will probably enjoy the film, although I contend it isn’t quite as good as both of those other films mentioned. I do appreciate that it keeps away from the normal romantic-comedy and teen comedy dynamics, minus the very lame attempt at a “be happy with who you are” moral. My final judgment is the film is alright, not particularly memorable, but worth renting.