Eye For Film >> Movies >> Youth In Revolt (2009) Film Review
Youth In Revolt
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) is a good kid. His parents are divorced and don't have a lot of money (though nobody really seems to go without), but everybody gets by well enough. The single biggest problem in his life, as he sees it, is his virginity. Cue an opening scene of ecstatic moans that are revealed to be inspired by a magazine. It's sympathetic, affectionate, overfamiliar and not as funny as it ought to be, which pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the film.
Staying in a trailer park when his mother's boyfriend needs to hide from unpaid creditors, Nick is overwhelmed when he meets Sheeni (Portia Doubleday), a sophisticated, attractive blonde who actually seems to like him. But Sheeni already has a boyfriend. And in order to stay near her in the longer term, Nick will need to get thrown out of his mother's house so he can move in with his dad. This means that he'll have to learn to be bad.
Nick's bad behaviour is the crux of the film - the sort of wild rebelliousness that young audiences ought to love. Except it isn't, really. Unable to take on such (ir)responsibilities directly, our hero creates a separate persona, the debonair François, who is well payed and will provide a few moments of humour for devotees of the French New Wave, but how many of those are likely to be in the audience? In this form, he insults his mother, smashes up his own stuff, and causes the sort of explosion any genuinely rebellious kid could easily talk his way out of. All this, we're told, would be likely to make him a star in juvenile detention. Are young audiences today really that naive?
As a lighthearted story with curiously old fashioned expectations, this could work well enough, but it misses a trick in not exploring or challenging the real bad things its hero does without noticing - exploiting all the adults around him and toying with the affections of a girl whose very vulnerability is presented as making her repellent. It's perfectly realistic for a teenager to misinterpret his selfish desire to possess somebody as love, but when the somebody capitulates and no question marks are raised, one has to wonder about the message being sent. 2008's Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging showed that it's possible to tell this kind of story much more honestly without losing either humour or sympathy in the process. This film is as shallow as its hero.
What makes this more of a shame is that Youth In Revolt has a fabulous indie cast, some great technical work and, in places, genuine wit. The capable Zach Galifianakis is wasted in a role that never goes anywhere but there are great cameos from Steve Buscemi and M. Emmet Walsh, Ray Liotta hams it up gloriously as a policeman who falls for Nick's mother, and relative newcomer Adhir Kalyan is a standout. It's unfortunate that rather than getting to spend more time with these underexplored characters we're stuck in the company of the largely charisma-free Cera. Far from being sexy, this is the sort of film one wants to hug gently and reassure that one loves it just like a brother.Reviewed on: 27 Jan 2010