Old 01-11-2010, 08:29 PM
Miguel Arteta's Youth in Revolt

2010 is not off to a good start...Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:


Youth in Revolt (2010)

One of these days people are going to realize that Michael Cera is not a good actor, but today is not that day as we have yet another film with him playing the exact same awkward character that he's played in every single movie he's been in since he became a star.

This time he takes on the role of Nick Twisp, a young man who lives with his mother Estelle (Jean Smart) and her current boyfriend, Jerry (Zach Galifianakis). After some sailors come looking for Jerry who conned them out of some money, he decides to take Estelle and Nick on a small vacation to a cabin, which actually turns out to be a trailer in a trailer park. This is where Nick meets Sheeni (Portia Doubleday), a girl with whom he immediately falls in love with. However, after Jerry hurts his back, they must return to their home, making Nick leave Sheeni behind.

Before he leaves, they devise a plan in which Nick's dad, George (Steve Buscemi), will take a job near Sheeni's house. Nick will then do everything in his power to get thrown out of his mother's house in order to go live with his dad. To assist himself in this, Nick creates another personality named Francois Dillinger, a bad boy who is able to do the terrible things that Nick can't or won't do.

You would think that a film where someone can create a new personality on the spot would be a lot more interesting than this. The potential for storytelling with such an ability and the events that could proceed from it are boundless, but this film chooses not to do very much with that concept at all. This personality that Nick creates is merely the "bad boy" side of him, one who is willing to destroy a car and trailer, burn down property, and continually push for sex with his girlfriend.

It certainly doesn't help that Cera doesn't change his normal demeanor very much at all. All that's changed is the addition of a mustache, a different set of clothes, and Cera attempt at talking smoothly, which still comes off as awkward. Even as this character, Cera continues his non-emotive method of "acting."

However, Cera is only one problem that this film has. Another strange issue that crept up was the fact that Nick and Sheeni don't seem bothered much by Francois's actions. Nick seems to find it normal that he is able to create this other personality, and when it starts doing these things, he doesn't try to make it go away.

Sheeni merely seems flattered that Nick would burn down a building to be with her, that is, until Francois's action start to involve her. Nick's dad and Sheeni's jealous ex-boyfriend seem to be the only sensible people in the film when they discover what Nick has been doing. I suppose we can just take this as Nick being insane, but I don't think we're supposed to look at it too closely, or at least that's what the filmmakers hope.

The film has a few well-known actors in really small parts like Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard, Zach Galifianakis, Ray Liotta, and Justin Long, but they are given very, very little to do. Liotta's and Long's characters are particularly pointless to the plotline. Liotta plays a cop that brings news to Nick's mother and then ends up sleeping with her. Long is Sheeni's brother who is constantly tripping on mushrooms. It's sad to see the talent of these actors being under-utilized.

All that being said, the film does have its share of funny moments, but they are few and far between long stretches of Cera's awkwardness and the bizarre developments of the plot. It's based on a novel by C.D. Payne which I've never read, but from seeing the film, it seems like this might have been a better idea left on the page. 2.5/4 stars.
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