Michael Cera doesn't exactly have a flawless track record, but I've always been lucky to avoid his less acclaimed work. When I saw the cast list for Youth in Revolt appear a while back however, it struck my interest. It was obviously going to be another 'awkward teen' vehicle for the now 21 year old, but is that necessarily a bad thing?
Youth in Revolt revolves around the life of Nick Twisp, a shy product of terrible parentage, who falls in love while on 'vacation' with his mother and current boyfriend (Zack Galifianakis). Within the first few minutes of the film starting, you're introduced to the surprisingly good cast for the relatively low budget indie including Steve Buscemi and comedy veteran Fred Willard. While at first this feels like it might be trying to 'show off' the supporting roles, it becomes obvious that it's up to Cera to carry the film himself, a task he seems comfortable with.
Naturally, Nick isn't going to have a room decorated with posters of 50 Cent, and given Cera's recent film 'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist' it's a relief that while both characters share a first name they're not given the same influences. As opposed to the indie comedies love of hipster bands recently, it's almost refreshing to have the music of Frank Sinatra and the movies of Fellini be his guides instead. Sure, it's no less pretentious... but it's somehow become a refreshing change. The film is set in modern day but due to the characters influences and the locations used, it feels like it could be set 20 or 30 years prior.
The characters' influences work especially well when Nick's alter-ego of Francois Dillinger takes a role in the way he leads his life, a mix of his own taste with what he thinks will impress his crush. Dillinger is portrayed as how Nick imagines a bad influence to be - a chain smoking, smooth talking Lothario. While the movie has plenty of laughs, the best are without doubt due to the dialogue and Cera's delivery of it. Rather than an image change, Dillinger is a figment of Nick's imagination who appears to take direct control over his actions, and the two will often appear on screen together. Sometimes this is a bit odd, for instance when Dillinger is driving a car while Cera sit's in the passenger seat, but overall it's a technique that isn't overused and doesn't cause any real distraction.
'Youth in Revolt' is a screen adaption of the first 3 of 6 books written by C. D. Payne, which are written in a journal'd style. While the journal is only used as a plot device, the use of a narrative track is a nice touch. I've not read the source, but I get the feeling this isn't a straight page for page interpretation. Each character has their own interesting storyline but none of these are brought to a close, adding an abridged feel. With more time to work with, this could have been resolved, but might also have had the side effect of dragging the story out too long.
If you like the film or not will be entirely dependent on how you feel about Michael Cera. If you're sick of seeing him 'rehash the same characters' and are bored with the 'awkward teen' his is well known for playing, you can probably skip Youth in Revolt. I feel that as long as the scripts are kept interesting, and the dialogue well written... Cera will fit these roles perfectly until he just gets too old to be convincing.
It's funny throughout, the other actors might not play huge roles but bring genuine laughs when they are on screen. The only strange issue is the use of 3 animated sequences throughout the film. The intro, a middle travel part, and the end credits are all animated in different styles and don't bear any relevance to the rest of the film. While the film ends more suddenly than expected, I didn't feel the ending credit sequence was anything more than someone unrelated to the story adding their own interpretation to what happened next. I didn't stay to find out what they came up with, which is a shame. If they'd kept the animation consistent and put it to use in a more effective way, it might've been worthwhile... as it stands, it leads no purpose.
'Youth in Revolt' is not a revolution in filmmaking, however it is a solid piece in it's own right. Beyond the few explosive set pieces, don't expect anything more than an enjoyable, simple story. Fans of Cera are given more of what they like best about him, and those fond of quirky indie comedies will feel at home with the pacing and storytelling.