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Movie Review: Youth in Revolt

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I don't know about this one. Going in I thought it looked rather odd, not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, generally speaking, odd is a good thing. So, off I went to see what it was all about. The theater had a rather eclectic collection of patrons, decidedly more eclectic than usual for this mainstream establishment. I actually felt like I was at one of the local arthouses. It was a different audience, in some ways I liked it, but in other ways I did not. While I liked feeling that I was at a film with other film lovers, I could not help but feel there was a layer of smug that had settled over the audience. What exactly does this have to do with Youth in Revolt? I am not exactly sure, but there is something about the film that has attracted a different audience to multiplexes, at least to this particular screening.

The lights went down, the movie rolled, and we heard much talk about jazz and French cinema and other topics not normally discussed by the high school set. Sure, seems fresh and different for teen cinema, but is it really? I am not so sure.  I will admit that it certainly is a different approach. However, in the end it is all window dressing for the familiar story of the loser guy getting the girl.

Youth in Revolt, based on the novel by C.D. Payne (which I have not read), is entertaining enough, but hardly groundbreaking or particularly special. I did enjoy the film, found the references and situations amusing, and the performances were pretty good too. Still, when it comes right down to it, the surrounding material does not stave off the been there/done that feel of the proceedings.

Michael Cera plays Nick Twisp, high school loser, lover of classic cinema and Frank Sinatra. He is the son of a heavily drinking mother with a loser boyfriend (Zach Galifianakis) and little prospects for the future. The trio take an expedited vacation to a trailer park to avoid some guys looking to… well, it doesn't really matter what they were up to. What matters is Nick sets his eyes on the lovely Sheeni (Portia Doubleday), a girl clearly out of his league.

How is this shy introvert supposed to make a move on her? He is inept in the ways of flirting and does not have the backbone to try anything. He does learn that Sheeni is a fan of French cinema, which leads to his creation of an alter-ego inside his head named Francois Dillinger (played by Cera and dressed like Euro-trash with a phony mustache) to help him do things he would not do otherwise. In essence, Francois takes the place of the exuberant sidekick who urges our hero on in his quest. What follows is a series of escalating escapades Nick embarks on with the goal of being with Sheeni, who is dealing with her own religious family.

Yes, this is the familiar boy meets girl story. Yes, it is covered up in some new window dressing. Yes, it is entertaining. I just did not connect with it. There was something about it that kept me at arms length, preventing me from caring about Nick or his desires. Also, while I did enjoy the Francois element, it wasn't as fully explored as it ought to have been.

I do like Michael Cera and he is certainly the best thing here. He is playing a variation on the same character he has been playing for years, but with the addition of Francois, there is a little more to him here. While I was not invested in the film, I was taken with Cera's developments. There are not many people who can play the laid back shy guy like he can. He can take innocuous dialogue and make it hilarious, well maybe not hilarious, but you will certainly chuckle. While his Nick is familiar, he gets to spread his wings as Francois, adding another piece to his still limited arsenal.  Currently he may be somewhat typecast, but he is certainly good in the role which he is repeatedly handed.

Bottomline. The movie did make me laugh, the scenery change from the standard teen flick was welcome though not executed as well as it could have been.  It is different and does seem to target a different audience, but is familiar enough to play across the board. I may not revisit it for a long time, but it is definitely worth a taste.

Mildly Recommended.

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