Movie Review: Youth in Revolt- A Convoluted but Tactfully Directed Film That Results in Familiarity

Whenever a modern teenage comedy comes out it is just baffling how unoriginal and trendy the latest sex obsessive teenage adolescence stories continue to be made and the same can be said for Miguel Arteta’s Youth in Revolt. A time of sexual uncertainty and exploration has turned into an obsession of physical pleasure rather than potential intimacy and the film comes off forced, familiar, and ridiculous when it had great potential to be something far better. There is a lack of Ferris Buellers or John Benders where identity wasn’t something caught up in sexual frustration which is a product of the American Pie syndrome. While the film isn’t a complete failure or waste of time due to its occasional charm it still lacks the darkness and wit from its original adapted source causing the characters to seem too familiar to enjoy fully. Also the script is filled with displays of cinephile pomposity having the character renting Fellini’s La Strada and conversing about Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story a reference that appears too obscure and arrogant for the common audience to understand let alone know what the hell the characters are talking about. Whatever happened to the nuances of referencing an influence rather than blatantly stating for appearances sake? Fortunately there are some minor moments of charm, wit, and graceful direction that allow Youth in Revolt to be enjoyable if not believable, which believability becomes the key flaw to the entire framework of the story.

As we are introduced to our protagonist Nicholas Twisp he appears in typical Michael Cera form. Awkward yet surprisingly cultured, Mr. Twisp mourns at the fact that most girls his age go for the jerks rather than the sweet and intelligent boys such as himself. Luckily for Nick he is able to meet an interesting and beautiful girl after his mother’s lover drags him along to a shabby trailer park home when he gets into trouble with a couple of sailors. The girl of Nick’s dreams is Sheeni, a spontaneous and precocious young girl who is more honest and straightforward about sexuality and relationships than Nick is at first comfortable with considering he has what he believes to be a sexual handicap: virginity. Sheeni rivals Nick in his cultured knowledge by one upping his admirations for Frank Sinatra with a French singer and a quick witted reply to his knock down of Jean Paul Belmond from Jean Luc-Godard’s Breathless and if this sounds pretentious its because it is. And despite Nick’s obvious interest for her Sheeni is hesitant due to their long distance predicament and she devises a plan for Nick to coerce him into bad behavior resulting in his temporary movement into his father’s home which is closer to Sheeni’s residence. This convoluted plot and synchronized occurrences are already difficult to follow but the catalyst to the rest of the story, where Nick creates a split personality named Francois Dillinger (a combination of the gangster John Dillinger and Sheeni’s dream man named Francois), is highly unbelievable and doesn’t relate at all to any mental instability in the character we are introduced to before this occurs. But fortunately this aspect of the film is what makes it mildly enjoyable witnessing a Michael Cera in rare form as a juvenile delinquent contradicting his usual sweet form. Luckily the convoluted story doesn’t confuse or alienate the audience; instead its charm and graceful direction allow each plot absurdity to become just another aspect of the film to be explored.

If there is anyone who remembers the trailers to this independent toned teenage comedy than most will remember the portrayal of Michael Cera as something entirely different as his alternate personality and this remains the best aspect of the film in general. However, as the film comes to a close it appears the script got a bit too convoluted to remain consistent in theme and message. Nick realizes that Sheeni loved him for who he always was yet this wasn’t the case since it was her idea for him to become an entirely different person, a delinquent, in order for him to get closer to her. In other words, Nick Twisp was found to be romantic and admired for his forceful sexual honesty that came from his alter ego Francois Dillinger rather than his regular coy self justifying the claim in the beginning that girls, in fact, go for the jerk rather than the charming intellectual. Some of the best parts in the film are the interactions between the two countering personalities but it doesn’t aid in the successful completion of the film’s conclusion, an unfortunate casualty to the convoluted story that depends on an excessive amount of assumptions. The film attempts to do something new with the teenage love comedy yet appears in most instances that it’s something we’ve all seen before from the animated intros to the hallucinogenic subjectivity, everything is familiar and never really goes beyond typical despite the good pacing and refined direction.

For director Miguel Arteta it is an obvious strength that he can work extremely well with actors, especially ones that have been pegged as limited in their abilities such as Michael Cera. The cast is filled with familiar faces and could have distracted the audience from the progression of the story but the tactful performances are handled rather well. Steve Buscemi, Fred Ward, and Zack Galifinakis, off of Hangover fame, all give a great presence that isn’t forceful or distracting from the scene at hand and allow the character Nick to remain the focus of the entire film. It was a step forward in Cera’s career to make a film that mocks his consistent personality choices that always appear the same in such films as Superbad and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Most people looking for an indie comedy will flock to this film and praise it for its presentation originality while ignoring its conceptual and character familiarity. It’s a good film but has many present and obvious flaws that may distract even the most average movie attendee.

Youth in Revolt was pushed back from a fall release to an early January release which didn’t bode well for its reception as a good film. Unfortunately the film attempts to be original in delivery while reaching back into a character book of clichés that are all too familiar and has an extremely convoluted plot that can only be believable if all of your thought process abilities are left behind at the door. Admirable qualities that the film does possess are decent to good performances as well as tactful direction that allow the film to flow at a pace that isn’t confusing or alienating. This seemingly pretentious film should have toned down their cinephile references and focused on making a coherent and believable tale that would compliment the dark and witty adapted source the filmmakers bravely tried to create. Youth in Revolt might be a tad enjoyable but its dependency on assumption will make it a forgettable film in the long run adding it to the list of forgettable teenage love comedies that depend on an identity of sexual frustration rather than independent qualities.

Grade: C+

2 Responses to “Movie Review: Youth in Revolt- A Convoluted but Tactfully Directed Film That Results in Familiarity”
  1. Ribs says:

    In the end, if you like Michael Cera, this movie is worth seeing:

  2. nurmalasari says:

    I understand less how the story goes …

    whether the benefits contained in the film?

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