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  Youth in Revolt Girlfriendless Love
Year: 2009
Director: Miguel Arteta
Stars: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Zach Galifianakis, Eric Knudsen, Adhir Kalyan, Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard, Ari Graynor, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, Rooney Mara, Jade Fusco, Lise Laccasse, M. Emmet Walsh, Mary Kay Place, Jonathan B. Wright
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) is a teenager who lives with his single mother Estelle (Jean Smart) and her latest boyfriend Jerry (Zach Galifianakis), not feeling as though he fits in when nobody else he knows is interested in foreign language cinema or Frank Sinatra songs, and they all have romance in their lives but Nick assuredly does not. What can he do to get a girlfriend, and perhaps more importantly, lose his virginity? No answer to that is forthcoming, not until a group of sailors show up on his doorstep and demand to see Jerry about the faulty car he sold them - Jerry thinks that's the ideal time to go on holiday.

Michael Cera was not an actor who proved himself by demonstrating a vast range in his talents, but even so by the point Youth in Revolt was released there were grumblings that he really needed to find at least some variation on his signature style. That saw this film relegated to indie level success, quite appropriately because it practically screamed indie quirkfest throughout, with its animated sequences and awkward romance and characters not being very good at getting what they wanted with hopefully hilarious results. Yet while in this case the cast were present and correct for the task of inhabiting such roles as was required of them, it wasn't only Cera who bred that "seen it all before" feeling.

Mind you, we'd certainly see it all again, sometimes worse, sometimes better, and director Miguel Arteta's movie of C.D. Payne's cult novel did have something to say about relationships where it seemed as though the nice, quiet, sensitive boy struggled to make his way in the world of love whereas his brasher, more aggressive, even more vulgar contemporaries were getting all the girls they could handle, and possibly more. A ray of hope is shone into Nick's life when on that vacation he meets a girl in the trailer park who appears to be all those interesting things he likes to see in himself: she's Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), squirming out of her strict religious parents' upbringing to set her sights on travelling to France.

We know she likes the French because she has photographs of nineteen-sixties era Jean-Paul Belmondo on her bedroom wall, part of the shorthand which the film deals in which was either sincere or a light parody of the sort of references which you'd get in movies such as these. Anyway, Nick has found his ideal woman, except she's more interested in the dog he gets for her (at her request) and likes him as a friend or someone to string along for her own amusement. That's not good enough for him of course, and before long he is not allowing this opportunity to get away from him so even though he has had to return home, he still keeps in touch and eventually drives to meet her at her boarding school with pal Vijay (Adhir Kalyan) in tow.

The joke being Vijay gets further with Sheeni's roommate than Nick does with Sheeni, but our hero has an ace up his sleeve in his cultivated alter-ego Francois Dillinger, who only he can see, but looks identical to him apart from a moustache and different coloured eyes. Francois is the bad boy Nick believes gets the girls interested, and he follows his instructions at times despite himself, which leads to the main source of humour and indeed irony when the evil twin gets him into trouble: being a bad boy also means you get arrested, you see, though Nick does his best to avoid that. Sadly eschewing a French accent, Cera was evidently amusing himself in the part, but it was often an excellent cast in support who stole the show, with veterans like Fred Willard (activist neighbour) and Steve Buscemi (exasperated dad) sharing scenes with a younger generation of talent and lifting this a few degrees. The main problem was eventually you realised this was a comedy version of Endless Love - and Endless Love was funnier. Music by John Swihart (along with a shitload of indie-schmindie songs).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Miguel Arteta  (1965 - )

Puerto Rican director whose first film, 1997's Star Maps, was shaped by his own bitter experiences as a minority trying to make it in Hollywood. Followed up by the acclaimed black comedies Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl, both written by college friend Mike White. He followed them up with an adaptation of cult novel Youth in Revolt.

 
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