Thursday, January 14, 2010

Youth in Revolt

I'm not the biggest Michael Cera fan.
Superbad was alright, Juno was pretty meh. And then I saw Jessie Eisenberg in Adventureland, and thought "How is this kid not a bigger deal than that Cera guy?"

Youth in Revolt almost changed my mind a little bit. Cera is perfect for the role of Nick Twisp as written for the screen. If you've read the book, you might have wondered how 20- something Cera was going to play a 14 year old character. Easy. By jumping him up to 16. You could argue that casting a real 14 year old instead of cashing in on Cera's built-in dweeb appeal might have been funnier, but it would have made the movie much darker. Count your blessings, writers, that you can always get away with more in a book than you can on the screen.

Cera's Nick Twisp is close to the stock issue sex obsessed teen. He's so frustrated with his lack of accomplishment with the women that he is actually envious of the amount of action all the adults in his life seem to be getting, despite the complete trainwrecks they are the rest of the time.
After meeting a girl who's actually interested in him on an impromptu lake vacation, Nick determines to be reunited with her by any means necessary, including the creation of a "supplementary persona" with the much cooler name of Francois Dillinger.

Unlike the suggestion in the trailers that he undergoes a personality makeover, Francois is more of a split personality along the lines of Fight Club's Tyler Durden. Nick, however, is always present when Francois takes charge.

From there, the plot becomes completely implausible, and the characters are a little too indy-quirk. Note to film makers everywhere: some of your stock "Indy-Quirk" trademarks are about to become cliche, including obsession with hideous suburban interior decor, teenagers who would rather listen to vinyl records and don't own an iPod, and drugging the uptight parents are on that list.

But it's a movie, after all. It's just as offbeat as Adventureland was surprisingly earnest. The characters are far from realistic. The dialogue sometimes sounds like it's all coming from the same mouth. The teenagers are able to manipulate their situations to such a degree that the initial conflict seems like it would be much easier to overcome that all the hoop jumping that comes between the credits. Similar to a Charlie Kaufman or Wes Anderson project, Youth in Revolt takes place in a semi-self contained alternate world, where the characters all speak with the same voice. Sometimes literally.

But it is still a lot of fun.


Tina Lee said...

Interesting. I just saw Adventureland and was really pleased with it. And recognized the similarity in geekiness w/ Cera. I was struck with how Adventureland's character could always do the right thing and still be so appealing. Probably because it fit with the story being told.

I'm hearing your indy-quirk note and I'll be watching for it. I think you're right. It seems so darn perceptive.

This was fun to read.

Lily Cate said...

Thank you, Tina!
I really liked Adventureland, I wish it would have gotten more attention, because Eisenberg seems like he'd have more range than Cera does. Don't know, though, because he turned around and played the same guy in Zombieland like 6 months later.

Anita said...

I think Cera's great because he looks so real...not like some ofthese crazy teens with the perfect hair and bods. I prefer regular-looking people, fer sure.

Lily Cate said...

Yeah, he does look authentic. He's the opposite of the trend to cast older so the teenage characters look better- Wasn't Stockard Channing like 34 when she was in Grease?