Michael Cera (Year One, Juno) is a good fit for the lascivious virginal protagonist Nick Twisp in this comedy that may be revolting for some not knowing its antecedent. Especially at the outset of what is a tautly absurdist slant on the coming-of-age picture.
Youth in Revolt stars Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Steve Buscemi, and Zach Galifianakis and comes from the first half (three parts) of a series by C.D Payne published in 1993.
Cera's agreeable, if eccentric Twisp is depicted over a couple years of his life and invites an audience into the angst of offbeat youth and male arrested development of which director Miguel Arteta has handled well in pics like Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl.
With an unfortunate sirname, Nick's a socially awkward wise-aleck with a wizened appreciation like a Fellini or Sinatra, but will display some hasty bad judgment. Similar to the title character in Charlie Bartlett but from a lower socio-economic strand.
During a vacation trip to a trailer park in Ukiah, California, he meets the beautiful, free-spirited Sheeni Saunders (Doubleday) who turns out to be the girl of his dreams. They both have an artistic, refined sensibility, and don't look that favorably towards the adults around them. Nick realizes he has to turn his life and the lives of all those around him upside down in order to be with her as family, geography and jealousy conspire to keep him and Sheeni apart.
Arteta utilizes Cera well to establish Twisp's aloofness as a teen before the irreverence is jumpstarted with Sheeni's encouragement. Nick thinks he can get his trashy, also narrow-minded mom (Jean Smart) to ship him back to the Golden State through his Jean-Paul Belmondo-ish alter ego of Francois Dillinger complete with ascot, pencil moustache and cigarette. However, a determined Francois isn't afraid of what has to be done to reach his destination, landing Twisp in a precarious predicament.
Cera often excels in a dual part even when the material or its episodic nature may deter it. He still has a chivalrous grip on the carnally conflicted character with his reliable ironic deadpan quality. Youth In Revolt has a smugness in its storytelling, especially from the line reading which complements its pep and nicely inserted animation of CGI and stop-motion. So it has some elements of Paper Heart, Superbad, and Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist that seem to work for the kind of innocent, relatable roles that Cera inhabits well.
Besides Smart, Buscemi finds a wry scruffiness into Twisp's divorced pop who prefers women like Lacey (Ari Graynor) not far from Nick's age. Amid the arson, cross-dressing, drugs, and grand theft auto some prickly, droll backup comes from Justin Long, Ray Liotta, Mary Kay Place, and especially Fred Willard.
In streamlining the source, Arteta and his crew supply what is necessary and eventful bringing out its unique foibles and nuance vividly rendered. A condescending candor may catch some mainstream folks off guard, but the story of a brainy high schooler is more hilarious than some may care to admit, besides young adults who'll lap this up even without blackberrys, iPods or CDs in sight.