Andy Bockelman: Where love and lawlessness meet
January 23, 2010
‘Youth in Revolt’
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 90 minutes
Starring: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart and Steve Buscemi.
Teen romances come and go, but "Youth in Revolt" offers something special between its star-crossed young lovers.
Besides that, it also offers a namesake for Albert Camus in the form of a very ugly dog and shows how best to feng shui your living room when it contains a Chevy Nova.
In case you were wondering.
Lovelorn Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) is surrounded by people in carnal relationships. At least it seems that way to the virginal Oakland, Calif., teenager, whether he's observing his mother (Jean Smart) and her live-in scumbag boyfriend (Zach Galifianakis) or his father (Steve Buscemi) and his 25-year-old paramour (Ari Graynor).
But, Nick holds to his belief that the perfect girl is out there, and during an impromptu vacation upstate to the town of Ukiah, he is proven right when he meets Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), the pride and joy of Restless Axels Trailer Park.
Sharing his love for foreign films and Frank Sinatra, she seems too good to be true.
And unfortunately she is, as she is already spoken for, and her religious parents (M. Emmet Walsh, Mary Kay Place) don't care for Nick. Not to mention that Sheeni sees him as too much of a nice guy to date seriously.
But, Nick has a solution to this conundrum — he creates an alternate personality. And as his alter ego, Francois Dillinger, he intends to show his lady love what he has to offer.
It seems like Cera's proficiency in playing strategically introverted, awkward loners only gets more and more pronounced. Trace his progress from "Juno" to "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" up to now.
But, you don't mess with success, and the actor gives another fine showing as both chronically sweet Nick and his chain-smoking, steely-eyed, moustache-sporting doppelganger.
His dual personae are certainly more watchable than Jim Carrey's in "Me, Myself & Irene," though the bad boy half of him doesn't exactly look the part in a powder blue shirt, high water pants and white loafers.
And when you want to make an impression of toughness, the moniker "Francois" is undoubtedly the way to go.
Sarcasm aside, Francophile Sheeni clearly thinks so, and Doubleday presents a lovely breakout performance as the pensive, fickle object of Nick's desire.
And these two whiz kids are only part of the fine cast, which also includes Justin Long, Ray Liotta and a "special appearance" by Fred Willard.
The comedy ranges from broad physical gags to smart, mirthful dialogue in the film version of author C.D. Payne's book series about novice rebel Nick Twisp.
What's truly funny is how everything that the hero of this story does almost immediately turns into an utter disaster.
However, his motivations make him so endearing.
Arson, drugging and other illicit activities somehow don't seem quite as bad when they're done in the name of love.
The strong points of "Youth in Revolt" are in its appealing main couple and its relatable tale of teenage longing.
Although most of us haven't tried such extreme tactics — dressing in drag, faking our own death — in trying to get the girl, we've all been in that position.
Ain't love grand?