Youth in Revolt

Being that I am a fan of Michael Cera, it seemed obvious that I needed to watch this movie. I’ve seen a respectable (maybe that’s not the right word) number of his films and TV shows, am well aware that he plays essentially the same characterโ€”himselfโ€”in each of these works, and yet I haven’t been discouraged yet. I continue to watch the bumbling, skinny Canadian kid work his comedic timing magic on the big and small screens.

I didn’t actually have high hopes for this movie, so maybe that’s why I found it a pleasant surprise. But it definitely was one, despite its uber-indie feel (indie music, animated sequences, witty/not believable dialogue, big-name stars in homely roles, you get the idea). Cera played Nick Twisp, a Cera prototype who becomes obsessed with a girl (Sheeni) he meets over the summer and, for reasons I still don’t quite understand, develops an alter ego named Francois, who basically fills in all the gaps of Nick’s that Sheeni demands. Francois is downright creepy, with his pencil mustache and cropped white pants and spotless loafers and perpetual cigarette, but he does give Cera the chance to do something different. He curses unironically, he talks about sex frankly, and he has a generally shitty attitude towards everything. Somehow, Cera pulls it off.

Sheeni, played by Portia Doubleday, is another one of those girls onscreen that you can’t help but hate, because she represents everything awful about the “desirable girl.” She’s demanding, as I said before, she changes her mind all the time, she has another dude on the side, she’s pretty enough to get what she wants but not pretty enough to be acting like such a dick all the time, and she has Twisp’s (and everyone’s) balls in her hands. It’s infuriating. I understand why these characters exist, but they really give actual real people a bad name sometimes. So I’m going to deduct a few arbitrary points from Sheeni. Doubleday played the character well, but yeah. Lame girls are lame.

Regarding those high-profile cameos, there were several. Steve Buscemi played Twisp’s father, in what may have been the best casting choice outside of Jason Bateman. Buscemi and Cera really do seem like they could be related; it’s a pity they didn’t have more scenes together. Jean Smart as Twisp’s mother was basically a mixture of Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Sigourney Weaver, and every single other tall, slightly older great actress in this same role in this same movie over the past five years. (Can you smell the cynicism wafting off of your screen right now? Sorry about that.) Zach Galifianakis as the motherlover was sorely underused. Same goes for Fred Willard, the crazy neighbor; Ray Liotta, the second motherlover; and Justin Long, brother of Sheeni. I love Cera, but these people deserved more legitimate screen time.

There was one actor who stole all of his scenes, though, and it wasn’t anyone I’ve mentioned above. Erik Knudsen as Lefty, Twisp’s severely depressed best friend, was hysterical. (And not shown often enough, either.) The character’s name refers to a certain part of his anatomy, the explanation of which had me in tears. There’s just something hilarious about two pale, skinny, pathetic white teenage boys talking intricately about their non-existent sex lives. Gets me every time. Or maybe it’s just Michael Cera in general. What can I say? This kid made me want to eat a mayon-egg.

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