Brandon's Word: Youth in Revolt is Hilariously Infatuating
by Brandon Lee Tenney
January 7, 2010
Michael Cera can do no wrong. It's been said that he plays the same character in every movie. It's been said that that character is just him, that he's playing a slightly more or less heightened version of himself every time he's projected on the big screen. Well, to be honest, I don't care. He does it well. He makes me laugh. And he's the OG of hopeless, awkward, geeky romantics. And that sentiment doesn't change throughout Youth in Revolt. Though, it does evolve.
Based on the novel by C.D. Payne and adapted by Gustin Nash, writer of Charlie Bartlett, Youth in Revolt follows the story of puppy love turned intense infatuation and the lengths to which Nick Twisp (Cera) will go to seal the deal. How far does he go? Far enough to create an alternate identity; one that stands in complete opposition to his play-it-safe attitude. A risk-taker. A rebel. A mustachioed menace: Francois Dillinger. Why is Twisp in such need of Dillinger's backbone? For a girl, of course: the beautiful, charming, and completely uninterested Sheeni Saunders, played wonderfully by new-comer Portia Doubleday. To score Sheeni, Twisp needs a revolution. But Francois Dillinger has his own ideas.
It's something to behold when Michael Cera dons his pencil-thin mustache as Dillinger. If for no other reason (and there are plenty of other reasons), Youth in Revolt is worth seeing simply to watch Cera breakout, sharpen his edge, and completely sell a character you've never seen him play before right alongside the character you know him for. The film rests squarely on Cera's shoulders, and he's able to carry it with ease.
But it's Nash's script that is the film's steady foundation. The man just knows the minds of hormone-ravaged teenagers. And he's able to capture the histrionics and extreme depths of inexplicable infatuations. Nash is a writer who strives to make each emotion and action feel real in context, even when those emotions and actions, if transplanted to our real world, wouldn't exactly be real. Youth in Revolt definitely lives in this hyper-reality, more real than real like the memory of an event rather than the event itself. It's a necessity that bolsters the heightened emotions and scenarios throughout the film. Nash's voice is unique, for sure. An amalgam of hyper-literate speech and teenage logic. A voice that perfectly captures the mindset of a teenager so eager to become an adult out from under the thumb of parental control (or any control at all, for that matter). There's rebellion and anti-establishment in every monologue. And while hyper-stylized, it all works in the context of the film, in the world created by Nash and director Miguel Arteta. And it's oh so much more preferable and enjoyable than the stylized dialogue and speech patterns of Diablo Cody's characters.
In short, Youth in Revolt is often hilarious and always smart. Michael Cera is truly brilliant. And the film's supporting cast is phenomenal, including the likes of Zach Galifianakis, Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, Rooney Mara, and Jean Smart (who is incredibly hilarious as Twisp's mother). It's a love story, but only kind of. It's more so an exploration of what it feels like to be fully entranced by puppy love, to be infatuated for no other reason than because it's difficult, it's a challenge, and it's now, inexplicably, a must. To feel the sting of jealousy. And the jolt of love, or something like it. Every emotion rings true. Every action, while outrageous, feels warranted when rationalized by the hormone-addled mind of Nick Twisp.
And Francois Dillinger, well, I think we've all, at one point or another, needed an ascot-wearing, cigarette-smoking confidence engine. If not, then you probably already have a mustache that you're twirling maniacally. Good on you, sir. Good on you.