7 February 2010

Movie Review: Youth in Revolt


D+

Youth in Revolt
2010, 90mins, 15
Director: Miguel Arteta
Writer (s): Gustin Nash, C.D Payne (novel)
Cast includes: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Ray Liotta, Zach Galifianakis, Jean Smart, Steve Buscemi, Ari Graynor, Justin Long
UK Release Date: 5th February 2010


Adapted from a text I’ve never read “Youth in Revolt” is a strange and bewildering experience that aims high but never really gels. The film is confusingly inconsistent but almost seems to want it that way; lathered in oodles of indie quirk and highbrow irreverence. For some this might be the sort of bizarre gold that they hope to stumble upon during their multiplex outings. For me it’s a patchy comedy with an overly pretentious tone, a weak plotline and a few decent performances. It’s hardly a movie worth making a song and dance about.

Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) is a 16 year old guy, who passes his days writing in his journal, embracing films and music removed from his peers and moaning about his lack of success with women. He’s a depressing individual who has to tolerate social exclusion and a family life which could never be described as pleasant. After his mother’s no good boyfriend (Zach Galifianakis) gets in a financial tiff with some local sailors, Nick is dragged away to a trailer park for a week in the hope the dispute will die. There he meets Sheeni (Portia Doubleday) an equally individual personality albeit with a more attractive outer shell than Nick. The two hit it off but in order to get a real romance burning Nick is forced to become more rebellious; so as to circumvent the obstacles keeping him and Sheeni from being together. As a result he creates a supplementary persona called Francois Dillinger (also played by Cera) in order to get the girl of his dreams. However whilst Sheeni might be in love with Nick’s crazed alternative personality others aren’t so enamoured, including the local law enforcement who are quickly hot on his heels.

“Youth in Revolt” may sound like “Me, Myself and Irene” with teenagers but Miguel Arteta’s movie is a completely different beast. There is very little that connects with mainstream cinema in “Youth in Revolt” other than a plethora of recognisable names on the cast list. It’s not hard to see why all these people signed up, on paper this is a movie that most have looked spectacularly original but in execution it’s something of a chore. The writing has an unstoppable pomposity that disallows audience members from really connecting with the characters and as a comedy it only manages one or two properly funny moments. It’s a weird film but not a good one, notable only for Michael Cera’s slight widening of his acting range.

The central romance isn’t convincing, there are many reasons why Nick might become infatuated with Sheeni but virtually none vice versa. Sure they share a strange taste in culture but other than that Sheeni seems a far more attractive person; both physically and emotionally. Cera struggles to make Nick anything other than a slightly creepy weirdo, though his interpretation of Francois is skilfully restrained and rather fun. The real acting standout is Doubleday, turning Sheeni into the film’s cutest and most appealing character. It’s a great performance and one that only emphasises the flaws in Cera’s. The audience really likes Sheeni but Nick is far harder to get along with. Elsewhere Steve Buscemi, Justin Long, Ari Graynor, Zach Galifianakis and Ray Liotta do pretty solid work in small parts, though the film probably doesn’t require them all. A little more discriminating editing on the character front might not have repaired the tonal and writing frustrations but it would at least have made the film shorter. “Youth in Revolt” feels a good deal longer than its 90 minutes and has at least two natural endings before the actual one comes around.

The direction by Miguel Arteta is packed with odd shots and ideas but the filmmaker struggles to integrate them into the story without making them look like needless art house flair. Arteta was responsible for 2002’s underrated “The Good Girl” a rather plain looking film that told a great story. “Youth in Revolt” is the opposite, a film filled with visual ticks and quirks but lacking any real narrative substance or entertainment value. It doesn’t really have much of an emotional or human core and comes across as deeply affected for a teen aimed flick. “Youth in Revolt” doesn’t really work as a drama, comedy or romance and whilst it’s hardly liable to be seen as one of 2010’s worst movies it still doesn’t warrant your time or money.

A film review by Daniel Kelly, 2010

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