Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp was a witty little epistolary novel that I read when I was myself a “youth in revolt” many years ago. It was heavy on absurdist camp and black humour and featured a memorably piquant teenaged protagonist who became a hero of mine.
I imagine disillusioned teenagers before my generation looked up to Holden Caulfield in similar fashion. So when I heard that there was going to film adaptation and that Michael Cera was going to be Nick Twisp, I went, “Well that’s just bloody perfect!”
I didn’t mean that sarcastically. Cera does indeed play this archetypal character in every movie (I also imagined Cera as the comic-book protagonist Scott Pilgrim, and guess who’s in that film adaptation...) and he does it with aplomb. Because he plays the charmingly quick-witted, loveable dork so magnificently, it’s hard to complain about lack of range.
Twisp is a melancholy 16-year-old outcast who is forced to not only deal with being a social pariah but his two immature divorced parents (Steve Buscemi and Jean Smart) and their grossly overt displays of public affection with their new partners (Ari Graynor on the dad’s side and the strange progression from Zach Galifianakis to Ray Liotta on the mom’s) as well.
Nick handles his achingly embarrassing life gracefully enough, seemingly content to ride it out on just his considerable wit while occasionally retreating into Fellini movies and Sinatra records. That is until he meets the girl of his dreams, Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday).
To win Sheeni’s love, Nick concocts a hilariously sociopathic alter ego named Francois Dillinger (a moustachioed, sunglass-donning, evil version of Twisp) for himself, in the hopes that his split personality will allow him to do things that the normally shy and reserved Nick would never be able to conceive of, let alone follow through on.
Things invariably spin out of control in the most farcical manner possible, leaving the in-over-his-head Nick with no choice but to, what else, dig deeper holes in an attempt to get out of the previous one.
Youth in Revolt may not reach the absurdist heights of its source material but it’s a bitingly twisted and chaotically hilarious exploration of teenage angst in own right. It’s a bit like The Catcher in the Rye meets Fight Club.
Cera additionally gets to put my earlier “lack of range” notion of him to rest with a convincingly winning turn as depraved bad boy Francois Dillinger. Maybe it’s just the novelty of seeing Cera play calamitous, but whenever Dillinger in onscreen, the film sparkles and the laughs get turned up to 11.
Youth in Revolt may be just another in a long line of hipster coming-of-age comedies dripping in indie-cred and twee whimsicality; but it’s one of the better ones out there.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini, aka inSing.com's Movie Lover, is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for Metrowize Asia.
Hidzir is the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.