By Don Simpson | January 7, 2010
Director: Miguel Arteta
Writer(s): C.D. Payne (novel), Gustin Nash (screenplay)
Starring: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Mary Kay Place, M. Emmet Walsh, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Long special appearances by: Fred Willard, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi
Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) is a 14-year old going headstrong through puberty. Equal parts a derivation from J.D. Salinger, Daniel Clowes, François Truffaut and Wes Anderson, Nick is obsessed with girls and enjoys great literature, foreign cinema and Frank Sinatra – which means, of course, that he is still a virgin. Nick’s parents are divorced. He lives with his mother (Jean Smart) and her white trash boyfriend, Jerry (Zach Galifianakis doing what he does best).
Jerry rips off some sailors – thus Jerry, Nick’s mother and Nick thrust forward into the narrative as they go on vacation (into hiding) at a Christian trailer park. This is where Nick falls instantly head-over-heels for Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday) – a Francophile with a taste for Jean-Paul Belmondo and Serge Gainsbourg and who dreams of moving to Paris to be swept away by a bad boy named Francois. Nick and Sheeni’s infatuation is cut short when Jerry and Nick’s mother decide that it’s time for them to go home; besides Sheeni has Trent (Jonathan Wright) – a pompous elitist prep torn straight from the script of a John Hughes film.
Nick finds himself at risk of losing Sheeni’s affection, so he develops a rebellious alter-ego named…Francois Dillinger. Armed with a moustache, cigarette, and white trousers, Francois takes Nick down a revolutionary road of absolute mayhem and utter destruction. It is not long before Nick finds himself hiding from the cops at his father’s (Steve Buscemi) new house, which happens to be down the street from the very same Christian trailer park where Sheeni and her fundamentalist Christian parents (Mary Kay Place and M. Emmet Walsh) permanently reside. However, Sheeni’s parents, already skeptical of Nick, become aware of his dark rebellious side and ban the star-crossed lovers from ever speaking to each other.
This is where Nick’s life (fully hijacked by Francois at this point) and thus the narrative spins ridiculously, albeit hilariously, out of control. Eventually (and this isn’t really a spoiler, since it’s a very predictable conclusion) Nick and Sheeni consummate their relationship just before Nick is whisked away to juvie. But Nick has proven himself to Sheeni, and she promises to wait for his release.
Ah, the things one does for love! Youth in Revolt perpetuates the theory that girls are attracted to bad boys. (I have to admit that, during high school, I heard the old refrain – “I like bad boys and you are too nice” – from girls on more than one occasion.) Youth in Revolt – no matter how exaggerated and fictionalized – essentially tells nice pubescent boys that it is ok to be bad (rebellious, violent and destructive) in order to attract girls. So there are some troubles there…but otherwise, Youth in Revolt deserves to be ordained the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off of 2009.