On first inspection, Youth In Revolt does itself a bit of a disservice. The screenplay stays true to the name of C.D. Payne book, but to the uninitiated it conjures images of an uprising against an oppressive, adult-dominated society. And it’s a shame that it does, because not only does it risk scaring off the prospective bums on seats, but also because such an idea is a misrepresentation of this story’s raison d’être.
You see, Miguel Arteta has smartly directed a cleverly cast and genuinely entertaining option for when you next visit the local multiplex. Because the youth in question here revolts against itself and its own restrictions rather than any external forces, and in a well-cut 90 minutes, it does so really rather well.
It’s action and variety over depth we’re offered by Gustin Nash’s screenplay, as the story of Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) and his coming of age tale rapidly unfolds. Cera’s playing your paint-by-numbers frustrated teen virgin, so when he, totally unsurprisingly falls for a holiday love in the shape of Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), you’d be forgiven for tucking in for a snooze. Fear not, though. Cera’s performance is both smart and refreshing in what is now a tried (tired) and tested role for teen flicks. In doing so with aplomb, Cera demonstrates perfectly why 2009 saw him BAFTA nominated, and his burgeoning talent has helped him into this fine starring role outing.
Of course, Cera is helped in no small measure by Doubleday who, as Sheeni, is perfectly aloof but totally captivating to Cera’s Twisp. Doubleday’s charge represents the pretty, loving, kind, but also the dangerous girl that boys of Twisp’s character are often fascinated by. As a rebel to her own conservative Christian upbringing, Sheeni is tantalisingly at odds with the two-strapped rucksack-wearing, LP-loving tidiness Twisp has cultivated as a response to his own messy home life. S, clearly something needs to give.
At this point, enter a bravo-inducing leftfield character in the shape of Francois Dillinger, Youth In Revolt‘s ‘taking no crap’ ‘alter ego’ ingredient. Cera’s second role in the film, and Twisp’s edgier doppelganger, produces the verve Youth In Revolt needs to cut it from a teen cloth crowded with same-y plot-threads. And from a story that, at times, is fragmented and unapologetically formulaic, dealing in the themes of sex, forbidden love, breaking the rules and…more sex, comes what might fondly be regarded as the bastard, threesome love child of Fight Club, Arrested Development and Garden State. Otherwise, it might just be known as a unique film with enough interest to pull in the teen crowd, but also those twice their age, through sheer appreciation of a stale form somewhat re-imagined.
There are laugh out loud moments here, mostly Dillinger inspired and Cera executed, but impressive showings from Cera (and Doubleday) aside, there’s more in the mix which makes this a very enjoyable cinema experience.
The brevity of Youth In Revolt dictates that any characterisation must be short and decisive, and the casting – almost necessarily – matches parts with actors superbly. ‘Oh my, that’s Steve’ Buscemi fittingly plays Twisp’s somewhat estranged and polar father. Ray Liotta shows up (to whoops in the screening) as a cop, while Jean Smart (Twisp’s mum), Fred Willard (the awesome Mr. Ferguson), and Justin Long (as Sheeni’s brother, Paul) all pull good weight as the most known faces in support.
What’s more, none of those names detract from Youth In Revolt‘s trajectory, and the overwhelming feeling, having seen them all in action and witnessed the film’s entirety, is of a fine coming together of elementary parts, producing a solid, fun and intelligent whole.
What more can I say apart from ‘I recommend it?’ Well, the finale is a teeny bit rushed and slightly forgettable. But then, as many of us will know, the best bits of youth tend to go that way as well. They also tend to result in substantial character development having overcome turbulent, frantic, but intensely enjoyable experiences. Well, that’s certainly how I felt as a member of the audience, and if anything should be said specifically about Michael Cera’s performance, perhaps that should be the reference as well…
And to think I was going to end on a gag about George Michael emerging from Wham, and the benefits of arresting developments…
Youth In Revolt is in cinemas from February 5.