I wasn’t aware of the novel written by C.D. Payne nor the film itself prior to the screening. What compelled me to attend the advance screening at all was the star of the picture, Michael Cera. Despite being incapable of distinguishing himself from film to film, I think he’s a good comedic actor. Maybe you can make the case for most comedic actors today, but it’s extremely difficult to watch a film Michael Cera’s in and believe him to be anyone else other than himself. And in that sense, this film is refreshing.
“Youth In Revolt” centers around Nick Twisp (Michael Cera), a pessimistic, hormonal-driven teenager, who reluctantly escapes to a trailer park with his mother (Jean Smart) and her hick boyfriend (Zach Galifianakis) for an unexpected “vacation”, where he encounters the irresistible Jeeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday). Inevitably, Twisp falls head-over-heels for Jeeni and when he’s forced to finally leave the trailer park, he does everything he can to get back to her.
In order to get back to Twisp’s love, he has to commit mischief and rebel against his parents, which develops Twisp’s alter-ego, Francois (also played by Michael Cera). For the first time in anything I’ve seen Michael Cera in, he plays a character. This alter-ego sports a mustache, a french accent and constantly has a ciggeratte wedged between his lips. Michael Cera successfully carries this film on his shoulders and almost always hits the mark when him and his alter-ego share a scene together. Cera is the only reason to see this film, which says a lot, seeing as how it co-stars Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi and Justin Long.
The only reason the film kept me entertained at all was Cera. The character is relatable as is and Cera’s typical awkward approach makes it that much more identifiable. However, most of the performances in this film fall flat, aside from Cera’s classmate, Vijay Joshi (Adhir Kalyan), who isn’t in the film long enough but scores some of the biggest laughs. Ray Liotta shows up midway through as uniform police officer and is absolutely terrible. I couldn’t believe he was in this film. Definitely miscast. Steve Buscemi, whom I’m a huge fan of, does what he can with an extremely thankless role. And probably my biggest disappointment was Justin Long. I think Long’s a terrific comedic actor. His cameo in Zack and Miri had me rolling, but he’s completely wasted here. Literally. He plays Sheeni’s pothead older brother and never once scores a laugh. As a matter of fact, there’s a scene between him and Buscemi later in the film that irritated me to no end. I truly HATED that scene. If they don’t cut the scene, you’ll know what I mean.
The only supporting actor that I wasn’t disappointed with was Fred Willard. He’s terrifically funny and any joke he’s associated with succeeds.
But part of the failure of this film is Portia Doubleday, playing Michael Cera’s love interest. She’s inconsistent. I was never entirely certain about her and that’s purely to blame on the performance. It felt fake. I never believed her and as a result, I never entirely rooted for Cera to succeed with his plans of getting back to her. Her performance was key for the film to work and her performance falls flat. She’s cute but instantly forgettable.
And I was the only audience member during the Q & A that had an enormous problem with the Cinematography. They did announce before the film started that not everything was fully color c orrected, which I understand but the Cinematography sucked the energy right out of the film. It was shot on the RED, which is a digital technology that Soderbergh and Pete Jackson utilize, and it’s a brilliant camera. But the problem with this camera is that it’s causing some people to neglect Cinematography as an art form. Yes, it shoots beautiful footage but “the camera is 25% of the battle”. I, personally, found the Cinematography distracting because it felt depressing and phony. Instead of lighting the actors, it felt as if they just pointed, shot and said, “Beautiful! Leave the lights in the truck!” I’ll probably be the only one who complains about this, but it made it extremely difficult for me to shake the straight-to-DVD vibe.
As far as pacing is concerned, the film moved quickly at the beginning but once the second and third act kicked in, the film noticeably slowed in comparison. It admittedly had me wondering what the time was mid-way through.
On a side note, there were some creative animated sequences that I would’ve liked to see more of in the film but it only ever occurs twice.
So, despite Cera’s inspired performance, I can’t whole-heartedly recommend the film. I did laugh occasionally, but ultimately the film just doesn’t completely work. Hopefully they can tighten it up before it’s October release date but as it stands, it’s mediocre.