Youth in Revolt (2009) movie poster

(2009) dir. Miguel Arteta
viewed: 06/26/10

Youth in Revolt is a coming of age comedy, a movie dedicated to quirkyness and the droll, a built to charm cult film-to-be.  And it is not without that charm nor that quirk.  Starring the likable Michael Cera (Juno (2007) & Superbad (2007)), the cast features a number of amusing actors including Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard, Ray Liotta, Jean Smart, and Portia Doubleday.  And the film employs cute animation sequences at various points during the movie to amusing effect.

Cera plays Nick Twisp, a nerdy, yearning virgin who impresses no one, whose life is thrown its first positive curveball when he and his mom and her boyfriend head to a trailer park one weekend.  He meets Doubleday, the proverbial girl of his dreams.  She likes art cinema and unusual music, is clever, pretty, and actually takes a liking to him.  When he has to return home and runs the risk of losing her, she convinces him that he needs to develop a “bad” side, willing to do things that his more normal self will not.  For instance, his goal is to get his mother to send him to live with his father so that he can have a chance to be near this girl again.

Thusly, Francois Dillinger is born, Cera in nattier European-style wear, hair combed, pencil moustache on his lip, danger in his tone, and a cigarette in his lips.  This dual personality is what allows Nick to take risks and challenge the systems and people that he would otherwise have been a flaccid wallflower in their presence.  And this is what seemed, particularly in light of the film’s marketing campaign, to be the key twist to the story.  And Dillinger gets the job done.

The thing about this film is that it’s all kind of there, and it’s all kind of charming, but it never seems to add up or crest over a certain level of okay.  It’s sort of less than the sum of its parts, despite the parts being just fine.

The film’s tone doesn’t reek or naturalism.  For instance, Nick and other characters speak in a very refined and potentially stilted, meant to be intelligent and clever, vocabulary and speech.  Which, as I said, I get.  It’s their characters, they say funny things, things regular people never would necessarily.  It’s not reality.  It’s funny.  They’re clever.  But then what was striking me as the movie unfolded was that I ultimately was a little adrift in exactly what world this movie was residing in.

So, as the narrative transpires, I felt less connected to the story, less caught up in its potential drama, just happy enough to be along for the ride, so to speak.  And whether I’m hitting the nail on the head as to the problem of the film, I am certain of where I came out on this film, that I liked it okay, I wasn’t as annoyed as I can be with some quirky comedies, Juno or Little Miss Sunshine (2006).   But the film dosn’t achieve that type of character that makes for truly significant experience either.