Hollywood Product - Michael Cera out-Sartres teen comedy
Miguel Arteta's Youth in Revolt is Adventureland meets Fight Club
GENRE: Transgressive teen romance
THE PITCH: After bookish virgin Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) falls in love with trailer park Francophile Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), he attempts to win her via a campaign of rebellion, abetted by his smooth, sociopathic alter ego, Francois Dillinger (also played by Cera).
MONEY SHOTS: The stop-motion animated credits evoke the opening of “Pee Wee’s Playhouse.” Nick’s automotive mishap causes an explosive fire later dubbed “the Berkeley Blaze.” Nick and a friend escape from a French boarding school. Fred Willard, tripping on mushrooms, intently studies carpet fibers. A faked suicide proves hilariously ineffectual. Cera’s thin mustache and cigarettes while playing Francois always provide chuckles.
BEST LINE: “I want to wrap your legs around my head and wear you like the crown that you are,” Francois tells Sheeni. “If that’s OK with you,” Nick adds.
BEST SIGNAGE: “Restless Axles,” the name of Sheeni’s trailer park.
FLESH FACTOR: Doubleday, Rooney Mara, Ari Graynor (as Nick’s father’s girlfriend) wear va-va-va-voom bikinis and/or underwear. Cera spends surprisingly much of the film in nothing but boxer shorts. Willard appears shirtless more often than not. At one point, Nick gazes at fornicating cartoon hallucinations.
CAMEOS: M. Emmet Walsh and Mary Kay Place play Sheeni’s Bible-thumping parents. Zach Galifianakis and Ray Liotta appear as boyfriends to Nick’s mom (Jean Smart). Justin Long plays Sheeni’s brother Paul.
FASHION STATEMENT: Francois affects white slacks and loafers. Paul wears a huge, womany apron at Thanksgiving. Early on, Willard’s character establishes his bleeding heart credentials by wearing socks with sandals.
MOVIE REFERENCES: At a video store, Nick encounters a shallow classmate who exclaims, “So random!” at his selection of Fellini’s La Strada. (“Yeah, they were all out of Miss Congeniality,” Nick replies.) Later, Nick and Sheeni try to impress each other with their knowledge of Godard and Ozu films.
SOUNDTRACK HIGHLIGHT: “'Tain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It),” by Fun Boy Three and Bananarama winks at Nick’s fondness for vintage pop. (By the way, will “Michael Cera movies” become a popular category for new music?)
THE BOTTOM LINE: Cera begins Youth in Revolt by providing virtually the same mousy performance he’s ever given, then goes into hilariously dark territory with his against-type portrayal of Francois: It starts like sillier Adventureland then takes a detour into Fight Club. Adapting C.D. Payne’s novel, director Miguel Arteta soft-pedals some of the plot’s morally disturbing implications, but gets points for revolting against the clichés of most youth comedies.