Starring: Michael Cera. Portia Doubleday, Zach Galifianakis, Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, Fred Willard, Justin Long, Rooney Mara
Director: Miguel Arteta
Writer(s): Gustin Nash, C. D. Payne (novel)
Cinematography: Chuy Chavez
Original Score: John Swihart
Running Time: 90 Mins.
I have decided to create a supplementary persona named Francois Dillinger…so says Michael Cera’s Nick Twisp about a third of the way into Youth in Revolt, and the reason for this, to win back and keep the girl of his dreams. Sadly as fantastic as the idea of a teen comedy version of Fight Club sounds it doesn’t quite have the conviction to follow it through totally, and as such loses itself a place in the pantheon of classic comedies, thats said it is still extremely funny and avoids the pitfall of being branded just another teen comedy starring Michael Cera.
Cera is an actor who has, since Arrested Development on TV and Superbad on film, made a name for himself playing effectively the same affable loser with quirks in a number of different scenarios, all of which have involved “getting the girl” and while Youth in Revolt doesn’t stray too far from this somewhat repetitive setup, it subverts it and injects it with enough originality and flair to stand out from the crowd, and as such deserves some recognition for being more than its poster would suggest.
Most of the laughs are wrought from Cera’s innocence clashing with the rebellious nature of his created alter ego, the Tyler Durden of Youth in Revolt, and Cera as Dillinger is a hoot and I only wish he were used more and not dropped in an instant only to reappear again 5 or 10 minutes later in a different scene rather than as a constant conflicting presence. It is in doing this that the idea of the alter ego is slightly lost but more criminally wasted in it’s comic effect, there were many times that Nick was onscreen and I expected Francois to appear next to or behind him to egg him on or offer subtle looks of disbelief, but alas they did not come, and it is in this oversight that much of the potential comedy is sadly lost.
However when Youth in Revolt brings the laughs there are some down-right hilarious moments and scenario’s, most involving Francois but many owing purely to Cera’s cracking comedy timing as both sides of the character. Aided in the film by a long list of very funny support characters there are appearances by Steve Buscemi, Zack Galifianakis, Fred Ward, Justin long and Ray Liotta all largely downplaying their roles ensuring it doesn’t just become a whos who of comedy cameos, though a stronger female lead would have helped as Portia Doubleday fails to make any impact beyond the end credits.
Allowing the film to escape its teen movie trappings is the experimental hand of Migueal Arteta, best known for his work on TV series Six Feet Under, who brings the tinges of darkness seen in that TV series to the big screen, witness Francois rebellious acts and the flippant, but very funny, remarks about death peppered throughout, some of the flashier attempts at originality feel like just that, flashy, and serve no purpose, two animated scenes being the case in point yet in one magic mushroom tripping scene the animation IS used to fantastic effect and hint at the talent’s that Arteta has and his ability to create something truly special were the editor excising a much stricter cut.
That said the finale is refreshingly subversive and offers a more bitter-sweet dénouement than you would quite rightly expect, so all in all maybe Francois Dillinger does win out over Nick Twisp after all, especially as the closing animated section is the one that works the best!
Youth in Revolt is to be commended for a career best performance from Cera and an a successful attempt to breakaway from his stereotypical character along with the, not always successful, attempts at making something that is at once hugely funny and different enough to stand out from an all too crowded and by the numbers genre.