Review: Youth in Revolt (2009)

Youth in Revolt (2009)

Director: Miguel Arteta | 90 minutes | comedy, romance | Actors: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Zach Galifianakis, Erik Knudsen, Adhir Kalyan, Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard, Ari Graynor, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, Rooney Mara, Jade Fusco, Lise Lacasse, M. Emmet Walsh

The principle is simple: an intelligent, but insecure, adolescent young man is unsurprisingly still a virgin. In a dryly funny voice-over, there is an extensive discussion of his desperate mother, silly friends and himself. We follow him on the way to that one memorable moment: his defloration. Sounds familiar? Hell yes. “Youth in Revolt” is a so-called Coming of age comedy that deals with all fixed themes, without really surprising.

Nick Twist (Michael Cera) is one of those guys who listens to Frank Sinatra and who is totally misunderstood in the American suburb where he lives. When he goes to a trailer park with his mother and his friend for a week, something happens that Nick himself could never have foreseen. He meets a girl: Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday). She is beautiful, intelligent and likes exciting French men. To impress his lover, Nick creates an alter ego: Francois Dillinger. A French from the book: white trousers, mustache and with a cigarette in the corner of his mouth. Where Nick waits, Francois takes matters into his own hands. To prove his love for Sheeni, Nick does things he might otherwise never do on the advice of Francois. Because in love and war everything is allowed.

The fact that in American films the actors are usually years older than they play is no longer news. Michael Cera himself is well into his twenties, but due to his silly appearance, he still plays sixteen-year-old boys. He must quickly change his career, because in three years no one will believe it anymore. The cast is basically good. None other than Ray Liotta plays an authoritarian police officer and Steve Buscemi has a small role as his father and the fat (Zach Galifianakis) from “The Hangover” can be seen as his mother’s unfriendly friend. But “Youth in Revolt” is not really convincing despite these resounding names.

There are jokes that can be laughed at, the situations are fun, but it’s not surprising enough. It’s quite funny to create an alter ego and do things that are actually not allowed, but Nick is not really rebellious, he just wants to lose his virginity. The ending of the film is easy to guess, and makes the film even less surprising than it already was. “Youth in Revolt” lacks a good dose of reality to be truly recognizable. Coming of age films of this kind have the side effect of having a very limited shelf life. There are so many adolescent films with humiliating sexual feelings and defloration as a central theme, that more is needed if you want to remember this film in five years’ time. A movie like this is quite fun when you’re sixteen yourself, but “Youth in Revolt” doesn’t have enough content or sex to stand the test of time.

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