Sunday, January 10, 2010

Movie with Abe: Youth in Revolt

Youth in Revolt
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Released January 8, 2010

Michael Cera, like his “Juno” costar Ellen Page, is one actor who always delivers more or less the same performance. He excels at portraying intellectually elite, socially awkward, nervous boys with a penchant for bizarre courtship and poor athletic ability. His latest vehicle affords him the same opportunity, playing Nick Twisp, a teenage boy with a mustached French alter ago who encourages him to be wreak havoc in order to get sent away in pursuit of the girl of his dreams. In the midst of the expected quality of Cera’s work, there’s an even more exciting discovery for both Nick and audiences in the form of his muse, played by lovely unknown quantity Portia Doubleday.

It’s the romantic chemistry between Doubleday and Cera that drives the story of “Youth in Revolt.” The drooling gaze that takes over Nick’s face after he first sees the impossibly attractive and enticing Sheeni Saunders is especially telling of the lasting infatuation that has overcome the young hero. Their conversations are excessively and hyperbolically mature, and they act as if they’re the only people in the world. As it turns out, they’re not, and that’s where the title comes in, propelling Nick to cause trouble in order to get closer to the girl he knew only so fleetingly during the summer.

If nothing else, “Youth in Revolt” is quirky. Early in the film, Nick’s family packs up their car and drives out to their vacation spot where Nick will meet his fated love. For the length of the drive, the people disappear and they are replaced by clay. Like the comic book opening to “Juno,” it provides a perfect introduction to the tone of the film, and sets up this entertaining story. The movie is just like its protagonist – odd, offbeat, and irresistible in its unique appeal.

In addition to the charms of the typecast Cera and the emerging Doubleday, there’s plenty of talent to be found in “Youth in Revolt.” At almost every turn, there’s a reliable performer ready to enhance even the smallest scene. Steve Buscemi as Nick’s down-on-his-luck dad, Jean Smart as Nick’s mom, Zach Galifianakis as her deadbeat boyfriend, Ray Liotta as a rage-filled cop, and Fred Willard as the weird next door neighbor – that’s only the beginning of the spectacular ensemble which makes this entire film a delight.

It’s only January, and brilliant cinema isn’t expected in the first few months of the year. But “Youth in Revolt” is exactly what it purports itself to be; nothing more, nothing less. It’s a creative tale with a fine cast at its heart and a smart script adapted from a 1993 book by C.D. Payne. It’s hardly as uproariously or crudely funny as a film like “Superbad,” but that’s not the idea. “Youth in Revolt” is funny and enjoyable, and it pushes the limits when it needs to, and manages to tell a compelling story filled with lots of humor. It’s nothing more than what’s advertised, but what’s advertised is quite satisfying.


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