“Youth in Revolt” a hilarious coming-of-age tale
When adolescent hormones clash with parental madness in the face of love, the result is a hilarious yet charming coming-of-age tale about rebellion, sex and the extreme measures one boy will go to get the girl of his dreams.
“Youth In Revolt,” directed by Miguel Artega is based off the novel by C.D. Payne, subtitled “The Journals of Nick Twisp.” The film, which takes from the novel the basic elements and major plot points, leaves out some of the characters’ more defined traits.
Without being too tied to the book (which was hard to get into right away), going into the film knowing it wouldn’t be exactly the same made it easier to watch and enjoy.
The film opens up with Nick Twisp (Michael Cera)—a wiseass teenager completely obsessed with sex, but is a virgin—masturbating in his bedroom. He’s never been in love or had a girlfriend and his parents are divorced and pretty much crazy. The film version of Nick is a slightly watered down version of the Nick from the novel—though he has the same sharp wit and dry humor, he’s not as driven by horniness.
Nick lives with his mother and her boyfriend, Jerry (Zach Galifianakis). Nick’s frustration with his virginity is more apparent because everyone around him, especially his parents, are sexually active (his father, played by Steve Buscemi, has a young, attractive girlfriend).
Surrounded by sex everywhere he goes, he can only concentrate on his lack of play. In a last minute trip, he journeys on a camping trip with his mother and Jerry for a few weeks.
While this camping in a run-down trailer, Nick meets Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday) who he instantly falls in love with. Sheeni is an intelligent girl who enjoys the French way too much and is parented by two completely devoted Christians who believe Nick to be a heathen.
In the film, Sheeni and Nick fall for each other after a hike in the woods. They read poetry, look into each other’s eyes, and buy a love child—Albert, a dog.
The story picks up when they have to be apart. Nick leaves to go back home and Sheeni tells him that there is no way they can be together. Nick tells her otherwise and says that he’ll do anything to be with her. Together they come up with a plan to get Nick’s father a job in Ukiah and in order for Nick to live with him, he must get kicked out of his mother’s house.
Knowing that Nick isn’t at all “bad” he creates an alter ego, Francois Dillinger (also Michael Cera), who carries out his misdeeds that include a lot of fire and destroyed vehicles. On his pathway of destruction, Sheeni continues to be on his side.
Without overdoing the voice overs or even the jokes, the film stays true to the novel’s point of view and sharp timing, though it fails to cover the novel’s true character intentions.
It seems that the Hollywood turned story has become more about love than about Nick’s overwhelming sex drive and the coldness of Sheeni’s actions as she continues to lead Nick on. The film, though, leaving those central intentions out was still pleasant to watch. It kept the laughter coming, while reminding those of the less cynical that adolescent love is awkward, bizarre and new.
Arteta includes clever and thoughtful uses of various sorts of animation by Peter Sluszka, which kept the film light and fun, and it didn’t lend itself to too much sentimental moments either, leaving the viewer time to laugh, without getting too attached to the love between the two main characters.
Though it’s the cliché boy-meets-girl-coming-of-age story, the comical cast, peppered with the witty dialogue and interesting animation, renders the film enjoyable, innocently funny and safe.
Contact Victoria Phetmisy
“Youth in Revolt” missing a revolution
By Ben Wright
At best, “Youth in Revolt” is a formulaic Hollywood teenage love story, the kind we’ve been force fed for years. At worst, and it is, the film is a cruel bastardization of the source material, completely disregarding the spirit of the original novel.
In a shocking change of pace for his characters, Michael Cera’s Nick Twisp is an awkward, self possessed teen in command of a rapier-like wit and a strong vocabulary. Cera appears at his most comfortable, and, by this point in his career, boring.
The fact that Cera’s character isn’t any different than his “Superbad” or “Juno” roles is compounded by the fact that in the novel, Twisp is a sex-obsessed, reckless teenager. In the novel, his humor is acerbic, not awkward, and he is not motivated by his love for Sheeni, only his desire to have sex with her as soon as possible.
Payne’s novel, while not exactly the best young adult novel out there, succeeds for several reasons. The first is that Twisp, as a character, is steeped in the early-90s counterculture. He is painted as a modern-day Holden Caulfield (with some success). The novel itself plays out like a theater of the absurd: more and more ridiculous events conspire as Twisp tries to fornicate.
In the mid-90s, MTV tried unsuccessfully to serialize “Youth in Revolt,” as the novel is chock full of absurdist tangents and subplots. There aren’t even any hints of a broader story in this film, only standard Hollywood situations.
In the book, Sheeni plays Nick like a fiddle, and it is painfully obvious to everyone, except for Nick. In the film, she is presented as a Platonic ideal of a woman; intellectual, funny, beautiful and completely blasé.
The movie abandons all of the novel’s concepts, instead throwing them all out the window to create a run-of-the-mill “indie” teen comedy. The sex is toned down, the violence watery, the jokes feeble.
It’s almost as if every actor in the movie was hired to play the parts they’re most famous for. Steve Buscemi plays an awkward-looking, oddball father. Ray Liotta, apparently looking to finance another series of bad plastic surgeries, is a crooked cop with anger problems. Zach Galifianakis is just weird.
The plot is neutered and oversimplified. Nick’s alter-egos are given bit comedy parts, whereas they represent dark sides of his personality in the novel. The interspersed animations seem like a weak attempt to cash in on the kitschy appeal of these indie movies. It’s embarrassing.
The novel’s anti-religion and establishment themes are cursory, and, when Nick and Sheeni finally, finally do it, the novel’s most triumphant moment, given pages of exulted description, the movie cuts it down to two teenagers in love sharing a sweet, intimate moment.
In short, there is no revolution in “Youth in Revolt.” The only revolting part is the fact that it tries to parade itself as such.
“Youth in Revolt” opens nationwide Jan. 8, 2010.
Contact Ben Wright