Thursday, December 24, 2009

Love: Youth In Revolt

My love for Michael Cera was a bit like my eighth grade boyfriend. I enjoyed being around him, I thought he was pretty funny, but I never quite took him seriously. I wasn't really gonna marry that guy, but I would sit next to him on the bus and maybe even admit to holding his hand. But Cera, the quintessential hipster wimp of Arrested Development fame, has finally earned his throng of fans and some major comedic cred with his newest role as Nick Twisp/Francois Dillinger in Youth in Revolt, based on the lengthy novel by C.D. Payne.

Nick is a typical Cera standby. He's awkward and quiet, but also smart, his intelligence present in the tiny quips mumbled under his breath. His home life consists of a set of divorced parents; a mother (Jean Smart, again proving how underrated she is) who falls in love with any man that stumbles into her path, and a deadbeat but kind father (Steve Buscemi) married to a woman just a few years older than Nick. He spends most of his time studying up on love and working towards losing his virginity with little success, a problem that becomes suddenly evident when he meets true love Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday). That's when the movie transforms into something entirely new, original, and even more hilarious.

Sheeni is the daughter of ultra conservative, organ playing Christian parents who live in the only two-story trailer in the trailer park that Nick moves near. She listens to French records and dreams of running away to Paris with French husband Francois, a figment of her imagination. Frustrated with his inability to make his relationship with Sheeni a reality, Nick internalizes her dream, and develops the alternate persona Francois, who smokes and dresses like a mod Frenchmen, easily woos the ladies, and doesn't take no for an answer.

Cera as Francois is entirely and yet paradoxically subtlety different from his usual push-over character, of Nick. His performance is not a direct caricature, but perfectly formed to be both believable and laugh out loud ridiculous. Sheeni is equally well crafted, newcomer Portia Doubleday playing her with just the right amount of annoying teenager and heartbreaking dreamer, making her instantly relatable to the target audience for the film (yes, that includes me and my hipster ways). She's the girl I wanted in so many other movies like 500 Days of Summer. For once, I felt like this one might be worth all the trouble that our hero goes through.

And the trouble in this movie is the best part. Whether Francois is breaking records over his knee or getting Nick and his new found British Indian friend (Adhir Kalyan) laid at a boarding school where everything is taught in French, the laughter never stops and always remains unique and surprisingly sincere. Justin Long, who seems to be taking on minor yet hysterical character parts (as a gay porn star in Zac and Miri Make a Porno, and recently in Old Dogs as a boy scout leader) is also a gem here as Sheeni's stoner brother.
Youth in Revolt is like Urban Outfitters before it was mainstream, commercialized, and a part of everyone's wardrobe. It feels different, smarter, and special without taking itself too seriously. There's enough heart and hilarity here to last multiple movie nights, the inventive spin on the usual coming of age story comforting in its familiarity and fun its surprises. And ladies (and Gents)? Be prepared to really fall in love with Cera who has finally taken his first step from hipster man-child, to grown up comic gold. 
Look for Youth in Revolt nation wide starting January 8th, 2010

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