Whilst Casta La Vista finds it feet again and recovers from an unimaginable occurrence I thought I would pen a verse or two on Youth in Revolt, Miguel Arteta’s coming of age adaptation of C.D.Payne’s coming of age novel (no, I haven’t read it) starring Michael Cera and a host of recognisable faces.
Simple enough stuff: Cera is Nick Twisp, your common variety, everyday loser/virgin; thin, shy, unassuming, into kitschy music and a fan of slim trousers and small t-shirts. His mum (the always dependable Jean Smart) moves him to a trailer for a week- I can’t be bothered explaining why- where he meets Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday- not bad at all, if you know what I mean!) and instantly falls in love.
Shenanigans abound as Nick begins a relationship with Sheeni and is then forced away from her when his vacation ends, only to devise an elaborate and ever escalating scheme to be reunited with her, with the help of his imaginary alter ego Francois Dillinger- who says and does the things that Nick isn’t brave enough to do. This scheme involves a major arson plot, cross dressing, slanderous deceit and some grand theft auto. Oh, and the worst ever attempt at a fake suicide.
What to say about the film:
Thumbs up all round from me to be honest. Much has been written about Michael Cera of late regarding the fact that he is fairly one note- his performances in everything from Arrested Development to Superbad all the way up to Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist and even Year One all seem to ask for the same kind of performance; that shy, smart alec-y teenager with a dry sense of humour and a penchant for getting dragged into a situation against his will.
Difference number one then in this case is that the mistakes of Nick Twisp are all his own doing, but that’s hardly enough to justify this as a different kind of performance. In fact, there isn’t really anything here that we haven’t seen Cera do before. But at a time when critics are celebrating George Clooney for his ‘performance of a lifetime’ in a role which asks no more of him than Dr Ross or Danny Ocean ever did, how can we criticise Cera for playing a character we know he was born to play?
What I’m trying to suggest is that Nick Twisp may be Michael Cera’s Ryan Bingham; the quintessential representation of all that we know and associate with this rising star, in the hope that this is him putting the ‘George Michael’ to bed and finally starting to do something different- starting with Scott Pilgrim.
The supporting cast of this film were well worth the admission too; Steve Buscemi and Fred Willard are dependable as always in there roles as Nick’s father and his neighbour respectively. There’s even room for a cameo from Justin Long, which fits nicely into the ‘words of wisdom from an experienced elder’ category of performances.
Miguel Arteta throws enough neat storytelling devices into the mix- a mushroom high experienced through animated images from a Karma Sutra-style book is a highlight- to ensure no one leaves the theatre bored and the frat boys looking for their ‘American Pie sex jokes’ fix will be kept happy too with plenty of footage of young girls in their underwear and boys talking about ‘getting it on’.
When all is said and done though this is the Michael Cera show and Youth in Revolt puts paid to the claim that Cera is a man to keep watching. He might still be trying to shake his baby face and malnourished frame, but this is an actor with quite a few miles left in the tank and plenty of experience behind him to suggest that he’s going to go far.
UPDATE!!! Something I completely forgot to mention the first time of writing this was the opening titles music. British viewers will of course recognise the tune from the current wave of B&Q adverts…I honestly thought that was a jingle recorded specifically for B&Q- the things cinema can teach you eh? Also, I don’t really talk about Nick’s alter ego Francois being a departure for Cera in terms of performance; this is because in many respects I don’t really think it is that much of a stretch for him. Francois is more confident than Nick yes, and his physical appearance is completely different, but take away the clothing and the smoking and it is simply classic Michael Cera- a character with an answer for everything, a distant stare and a cool walk. Let us know if you disagree, I just felt I’d seen it all before from him, but not in a bad way.