Teen angst, divorce, raging hormones and lovesickness all crawl under the creative covers for an amusing romp in director Miguel Arteta’s Youth in Revolt. The film, which is based on C.D. Payne’s 1993 read, “Youth In Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp”—and its literary brothers, “Revolting Youth: The Further Journals of Nick Twisp,” and “Young and Revolting: The Continental Journals of Nick Twisp”—is a delicious dark comedy that finds its protagonist (Michael Cera in a winning role) hoping to win the affections of a nubile teen dream (Portia Doubleday as Sheeni Saunders) that he meets during a family vacation. It’s the perfect role for Cera, who has already mastered the art of playing the underdog in other films like Superbad, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and, of course, a career-making role in Juno. But here, he’s given a little more to play with creatively, mostly because the character of Nick Twisp, revered in some literary circles, is such a rich beast filled so many wild emotional undercurrents.
For starters, Nick’s parents are divorced (Jean Smart and Steve Buschemi offer stellar turns) and, like the books, screenwriter Gustin Nash paints the adults (as we see them through young Nick’s eyes) as self-absorbed sex-hungry narcissists who can’t be bothered with Nick’s real-life concerns. But Nick is no ordinary teen. He’s got a taste for the “finer” things in life—Sinatra, Fellini—and strives to actualize the kind of class that seems to have evaporated from society long ago. After Nick takes a liking to Sheeni, she encourages him to chuck the predictable boring life and prove that he has was what it takes to be the man for her. In other words, “bad.” Happy to do anything to win the young girl’s heart, Nick agrees and soon has given birth to a rebellious alter ego named François. Tres French, François comes equipped with an ascot, a moustache and some cigarettes. Soon, he’s leading Nick on an unpredictable path of destruction that forces heads to turn. Nash does a fine job with the script given the challenge of whittling down Nick’s immense, imaginative universe from the literary adventures. (Although, fans of the reads may crave more here.) Still, the dialogue snaps—“I told her I wasn't mentally ill; I was just a teenager”and “Are there no bounds to parental sadism?”—and director Arteta’s clever use of animation at times offer the film a genuine liveliness you don’t always see in teen comedies. Rated R. (90 minutes) ★★★ | Watch movie trailer >>>
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