Who’s In It: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Steve Buscemi, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Long, Fred Willard, Ari Graynor, Rooney Mara, M. Emmet Walsh, Adhir Kalyan, Ray Liotta
The Basics: Nick Twisp is a young man much like many other Michael Cera characters: shy, love-obsessed, and a bit too intellectual for the rubes that populate his dismal suburban life. That is until one summer, while on vacay to escape a band of Navy officers his mother’s loser boyfriend (Zach Galifianakis) has swindled, Nick finds himself living in a Christian trailer park where he meets Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), the girl of his dreams. Sheeni, however, already has a perfect boyfriend named Trent and longs to run away to France. So like any wannabe hipster teen would, Nick invents a chain-smoking, pencil mustache-wearing alter ego named Francois Dillinger and embarks on a small-scale criminal career to win Sheeni’s pretentious little heart.
What’s The Deal: Director Miguel Arteta (Star Maps, Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl) brings C.D. Payne’s absurdist graphic novel to life with a light, playful touch, punctuated by a few whimsical animated sequences that lend the film an appropriate hipster sensibility. He also employs a great cast – Jean Smart and Steve Buscemi as the world’s most ignorant and self-indulgent parents, Fred Willard as an enthusiastically helpful ex-hippie neighbor, and Ray Liotta and Zach Galifianakis as Nick’s mom’s unsuitable suitors – while always remembering that this is Michael Cera’s movie. But while Cera could do his usual deadpan-ironic shtick in his sleep, he’s best as the uber-confident Francois Dillinger, a vision in fey, ‘60s-styled casual wear with a mean streak and a dirty mouth. Sadly, Francois disappears every time he starts doing something interesting, leaving that same old Michael Cera to fret and fidget in his place.
Look at This F-ing Hipster: If pretentious hipster kids annoy you in real life, they’ll bug the hell out of you in Youth in Revolt. Credit author C.D. Payne, who set the groundwork for a Gustin Nash script that overloads its quirky characters with affectations galore, from Nick’s trailer-trash parents to the Jean-Paul Belmondo-obsessed Sheeni. Now, I love Belmondo as much as the next nouvelle vague fan girl, but nobody wants to watch other people argue Mizoguchi vs. Ozu in a teen sex farce. I’ll leave that to my own pretentious conversations in the privacy of my own home.
Why I’m Penalizing Youth In Revolt By Subtracting A Whole Star: Youth in Revolt is set in the San Francisco Bay Area, from Nick’s home in Oakland to the quaint little neighborhood he burns down in Berkeley. But for some reason, Arteta filmed all over Michigan and in Shreveport, Louisiana, resulting in a Bay Area that looks nothing like the Bay Area. His “Berkeley” doesn’t even have any Birkenstock-wearing yippies, for goodness sake! As a hometown girl, I’m personally offended. The fair city of Berkeley deserved to be destroyed with authentic location shooting, in the very least. Shame on you, movie.