“You’re not gonna get this girl by sitting around listening to records. It’s time to rebel, Nick.”
The Scoop: 2009 R, directed by Miguel Arteta and starring Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday and Jean Smart
Tagline: He Wasn’t a Rebel Until He Found His Cause.
Summary Capsule: Timid virgin Nick Twisp invents a supplemental persona, rebellious lothario Francois Dillinger, in order to snag the girl of his dreams.
Drew’s rating: I think if I created an alternate persona, he’d be Irishman Jack Finnigan, professional scoundrel and roustabout.
Drew’s review: In case you were wondering, yes — I decided that immediately after a “2009 in Review” article all about how I never go to the movies anymore and have reconnected with older cult films, my first review of 2010 would be of a movie currently in theaters. That’s just how I roll.
Youth in Revolt is based on a cult novel, albeit one I haven’t read (yet, although what must’ve been the last B. Dalton in the northern hemisphere just closed nearby, so I picked it up for half price… go me!). Our premise is that on a forced vacation with his mother and her boyfriend Jerry, teenager Nick Twisp (Cera) meets the love of his young life, Sheeni Saunders (Doubleday).
Even though Nick doesn’t remotely fit the mold of Sheeni’s ideal man — old, French, worldly — her heartstrings are no match for Michael Cera’s trademark brand of adorable cluelessness. (See also: Arrested Development, Juno, the upcoming Scott Pilgrim.) Only problem is, it’s a short vacation and Nick’s soon on his way home. But love conquers all, and when Sheeni manages to get Nick’s dad a job near her, Nick’s faced with the task of becoming enough of a delinquent for his mom to get fed up and send him to live with his father. Enter Francois Dillinger, Nick’s alter ego who detests authority and knows how to make the ladies warm for his form. It’s a good time to be a bad guy…
One thing I was glad to discover is that while the previews for Youth make it seem like Francois is the main plot-driving force of the movie, in truth his appearances are sparing; he doesn’t wear out his welcome. This was a wise move because it paints Francois as more of a guardian devil who pops up sporadically to either help or hinder Nick, rather than a constant presence where you start thinking, “Heeey, Nick is crazy.” What I’m saying is, you won’t have to endure any scenes where Nick puts a gun in his mouth to keep Francois from blowing up skyscrapers. In reality, it’s still very much Nick and Sheeni’s story, just with a little added help. That said, as expected, some of the film’s best lines come from the “lips” of a character who is completely uninhibited. If I were single and drunk, I… well, I probably still wouldn’t use the “tickle your belly button from the inside” line. But I’d consider it.
Simultaneously one of Youth‘s biggest strengths and weaknesses is the fact that the only two truly developed characters are Nick and Sheeni, perhaps by necessity. Everyone else exists primarily as a plot device or a comedic element for Nick to play off of rather than a fully realized person; that’s all they can be, since he moves around too much for us to really get to know anyone except he and Sheeni. (And Francois, not that there’s much to know… cigarettes go here, penis goes there.) Fortunately it’s not necessary to have depth to be funny, and the majority of characters definitely are, especially Jean Smart as Nick’s mom and Fred Willard as his hippie, I.N.S.-loathing neighbor. I’m impressed so many big name actors were willing to take on what amount to basically bit parts, but more credit to them for it.
In the end? Well, I can honestly say that I walked out of the theater having laughed out loud a few times, and not feeling that I’d wasted seven bucks. The plot isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but there’s enough humorous twists on the boy-meets-girl formula to keep it from getting stale, and the endless parade of recognizable stars prevents things from bogging down. Also, the settings and characters change so often it’s hard to get bored. I don’t know if Youth will hold up to repeated viewings, but it’s absolutely worth at least one or two, if only for Nick’s hallucinatory vision of the Kama Sutra. Now I’m stoked to read the book and see what all got left out. And don’t worry, I promise that my next review will be of a movie that’s older than this one. Like Sherlock Holmes.
- Youth is based on a novel of the same title by C. D. Payne. The film supposedly follows the book closely, though with numerous subplots left on the cutting room floor. Payne followed his novel up with sequels “Revolting Youth,” “Young and Revolting” and “Revoltingly Young,” as well as “Cut to the Twisp,” a collection of about 100 pages excised from the Doubleday edition of the book.
- I never gave it a try, but I can’t imagine that any girl I ever dated would’ve been up for what Nick and Lefty discuss. Maybe I’m wrong and it would’ve been a huge hit, but somehow I doubt it.
Estelle: I need that child support money to eat.
Nick: Shouldn’t you need that child support money to support your child?
Francois: Just be quiet and let me blow [crap] up.
Nick: Do you think I could cuddle next to you?
Francois: Or we could do more than just cuddle. Why don’t you pull down these blankets and show me what you’re hiding under there?
Sheeni: Is that what you want me to do?
Nick [to Francois]: Say yes!
Francois: I want to wrap your legs around my head and wear you like the crown that you are.
Nick: …if that’s okay with you.
Nick: I’ll only ask once that you and your adorable sweater step away from the door.
If You Liked This Movie, Try These:
- Scott Pilgrim
It’s probably the cigarette that does it, because everyone knows that Smoking is Cool.