Youth In Revolt

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Languishing at a trailer park with his mom (Smart) and her deadbeat lover (Galifianakis), Sinatra-loving teen Nick Twisp (Cera) meets Francophile beauty Sheeni Saunders (Doubleday) and resolves to win her heart by developing a suave alter-ego, François Di


Back in 2006, when Michael Cera was cast as Nick Twisp in Dimension Films’ adaptation of C. D. Payne’s epic 1993 coming-of-age novel, Youth In Revolt, it was, he said, a dream come true — the chance to portray a cult hero of US teen fiction who was “exactly like me! This kid with the cynical world-view of an old man!”

Although ultra-absurdist, over-literate and pathologically priapic, Payne’s 500- page picaresque was ideal adaptation material because no matter how ludicrous Twisp’s misadventures became, they were all in the service of a classic teen dilemma: how far should a nice guy go to win over someone who’s tired of nice guys? Who knew that in 2010, Twisp’s dilemma would perfectly mirror Cera’s own?

If his turns in Arrested Development and Superbad revealed a compellingly strange take on adolescent awkwardness, misguided one-note roles like Year One saw Cera cruelly marked FAIL in 2009. Thankfully, Youth In Revolt reconfirms what all the initial fuss was about. Acting opposite such indie-com stalwarts as Zach Galifianakis, Steve Buscemi (his teen-dating father), Fred Willard (the Twisps’ union-active landlord) and Justin Long (Sheeni’s stoner brother), Cera gives his most nuanced performance to date, casually slipping from trademark nervy cuteness into a rather delicious, new thin-lipped misanthropy.

Inspired by Sheeni’s love of all things French and cruel, Twisp’s “supplementary persona” is the film’s dark heart, a Tyler Durden sidekick who sports Wayfarers, tight, white slacks, button-down shirt and pencil moustache, and dispenses Gallic contempt in order to win the girl’s heart. In the hands of Arteta (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl), the scenes between Nick (Cera) and François (Cera) possess a surreal feel, in which we’re encouraged to see the funny side of a schizophrenic loon, engineering druggings, blackmail and arson in order to get the girl.

It may cram in too many of the book’s set-pieces, but ultimately this is Cera’s film and he gives his best performance so far.

It’s chaotic and episodic, but this is Cera’s star turn. Superbad meets Fight Club? That’ll do it.