The dilemma is clear, the solution utterly nutty. In "Youth in Revolt,"Michael Cera's Nick Twisp plays a young romantic whose dweeby sensitivity is not going to win him the virginity-stealing affections of sultry tease Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday). Twisp's plan? Invent Mr. Franзois Dillinger, an alter ego whose fire-starting, car-stealing ways might help Nick bed the gal of his dreams.
As far as savvy girl-getting strategies go, Twisp's might not be the wisest, as it soon becomes a little hard to differentiate between his true self and his law-breaking one. It certainly makes for a ton of laughs, though. What are the critics saying? With the film opening on Friday (January 8), the reviews are in. Let's take a look.
In Praise of Cera
It seems you either dig Cera's shy-guy shtick, or you consider him a one-note actor. You're either an "Arrested Development" devotee, or you just don't get what all the fuss is about. "Youth in Revolt," though, gives Cera an opportunity to bust out of that mold (meet Franзois) while also staying true to what fans like about him so much (hello, Nick). And many critics have given the young actor props for the dual-pronged performance.
"His voice is breathy, wistful and piping, yet plaintive and emotive," writes Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal. "His abstracted demeanor suggests an emotional range that is narrower still, yet his inhibitions are translucent, rather than opaque; directly behind them, intelligence seethes and passion smolders. It's remarkable that such a singular young actor — he's only 21 — should have found so many worthy vehicles ('Superbad,' 'Juno,' 'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist') in such a short time, but he's done it again as Nick Twisp."
We Like to Hear Ourselves Talk
Like "Juno" before it, the kids in "Revolt" don't always talk like any kids you've ever known. They talk like idealized versions of who adults wish they were as kids. If this bit of moviemaking artificiality bothers you, "Revolt" might too.
"' Youth's screenplay, by Gustin Nash, is generally witty," Claudia Puig says in USA Today. "The dialogue is so self-consciously ornate, however, that it can sound forced and artificial coming out of every teenager's mouth. Snappy banter is always preferable to predictable chatter, but it also can sound excessively and formally scripted."
Bringing the Funny
Such aesthetic considerations aside, most critics agree that the film delivers laughs. Our own Kurt Loder writes, "The movie has some really funny scenes — often fueled by Cera's gift for the sour throwaway quip — and some pretty wild lines. ... There are also tasty cameos by Fred Willard and Ray Liotta (as a scummy cop, what else?), and brief, zesty performances by Justin Long (as Sheeni's 'shroom-swacked brother) and Rooney Mara (as her proudly slutty roommate)."
We'll give the last word to Ed Douglas of ComingSoon.net: "Very much in the vein of indie comedies like 'Adventureland' and 'Rocket Science,' but also harking back as far as Dustin Hoffman in 'The Graduate,' this is another great look at what great lengths a guy will go to in order to win over a woman, and as outlandish as Nick's journey might get at times, it's also paved with situations firmly grounded in reality," he writes. "What keeps the movie so engaging is watching Nick's transformation from when we first meet him through the endgame. It's a role perfectly suited for Cera, playing up to his comic strengths but also allowing him to branch out by playing multiple characters, often at the same time. Franзois is so different from the normal Cera character you can't help but be amused by the scenes they share as Franзois steps in to do and say all the things Nick would never dare."
Check out everything we've got on "Youth in Revolt."
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