Fri 8 Jan 2010
This image will haunt my sleep for a long time.
For those of you wondering if “Youth in Revolt” is something worth seeing, keep in mind that I’m not much of a Michael Cera fan. I’ve liked films he’s been in, and even liked some of his performances. However, I’m of the mind that he only has one character (dry wit, mumbly, frenetic) and he plays it in every movie; whether it works or not is determined by how tailored the script is to that character.
With this film, I’d say it works half the time. It does so because the script calls for Cera’s character to develop a split personality which helps guide his meek, virgin self towards the promised land of Portia Doubleday’s pants. The mild mannered wannabe is perfectly suited to Cera, as it’s the character we’ve seen in everything he’s ever been in. The French-accented ladies’ man however comes off like some bad SNL skit and I just wanted to slap the taste out of his mouth each time he showed up to boost Cera’s aggression and decisiveness.
Cera aside, there were some decent moments. The tone that director Miguel Arteta sets is quirky and on the hipster end of the spectrum but by the thinnest of margins, remains on the good side of the pretentious line. Much of that is due to a spectacular supporting cast, which includes Jean Smart, Steve Buscemi, Zach Galifianakis and Ray Liotta (even Justin Long’s uninspiring and lazy cameo didn’t ruin their efforts too much).
M. Emmet Walsh and Mary Kay Place, as Doubleday’s parents, provide a nice subplot revolving around their fundamentalist religious lifestyle. And there are also some very good performances from less seasoned cast members Adhir Kalyan, Erik Knudsen, Ari Graynor, Rooney Mara and Jade Fusco. As the film is about teenage love, there just wouldn’t be any chance for it without actors capable of delivering the offbeat and at times acerbic dialogue.
If you’ve liked other Arteta films, like “Chuck & Buck” or “The Good Girl”, and like Michael Cera, this will probably work for you. However, if those conditions aren’t met, you might want to sit this one out. I just could never get comfortable with Cera’s place in it all and so I’m giving “Youth in Revolt” a 2 out of 5. In the hands of another actor, I think this could have been a refreshing comedy to start the year off with. I was just left feeling a little cold.