Youth In Revolt Review

Published 5 years ago by , Updated January 18th, 2010 at 4:27 pm,

Short Version: Not at all what it was advertised to be, Youth In Revolt will leave a lot of people scratching their heads.

youth in revolt 07 Youth In Revolt ReviewScreen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw reviews Youth In Revolt

Youth In Revolt is one of those movies that, as soon as the opening credits rolled, I could tell had been totally advertised as something it’s not – though not without good reason (but more on that later).

The film is based on a series of novels by C.D. Payne, in which Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) a mild-mannered boy of refined tastes, tries to rebel against the trappings of an unrefined upbringing and immoral authority figures in order to be united with his true love, Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday).

Nick is a hapless virgin trapped in a house with a mother (24‘s Jean Smart) whose only enjoyment in life seems to be the “attention” she gets from a series of skeevy men looking to occupy her bed for awhile. One of those dudes (Zack Galifianakis) pisses off some sailors in a crooked deal and has to flee the neighborhood, dragging Nick and his mother along to a rusted trailer in the countryside to lay low for awhile. It’s hell on Earth… until Nick meets Sheeni Saunders.

Sheeni shares Nick’s sophisticated tastes and ambitions, hoping to one day trade trailer life with her religious fanatic parents for the lights and culture of Paris. Nick and Sheeni spend some wonderful days together waxing intellectual – and this is where Youth In Revolt drastically departs from what the advertisements promised to deliver.

youth in revolt 07 Youth In Revolt Review

The trailers promised us a story where Nick is spurned by Sheeni, and therefore creates a bad boy persona to win her over. This is not at all the case. In reality, Nick and Sheeni quickly proclaim their romantic devotion to one another – however before Nick can seal the deal he’s carted back home to his mother’s house again.

What follows is slightly hard to explain (hence the “creative” advertising of this film). Nick and Sheeni keep in contact; Sheeni tells Nick that if they want to be together, he will have to act out so brazenly that his mother will be forced to send him away. Enter “Francois Dillinger,” the French bad boy Nick manifests as his best estimation of the man he thinks Sheeni wants him to be. Francois gets to work, quickly decimating Nick’s life, capping things off with an arson blaze that puts Nick on the wrong side of the law.

Thankfully, Nick’s mother has a new boyfriend (Ray Liotta) who’s a cop and covers for Nick. Through some vague scheme, Nick and Sheeni get Nick’s Father (Steve Buscemi) a job in the countryside and Nick gets sent to live with him – only Sheeni then gets sent away to boarding school. Nick pursues, there’s a showdown at the school, some other stuff involving Sheeni’s crazy stoner brother (Justin Long) – the cops eventually catch up with Nick/Francois, yadda, yadda, yadda… THE END.

youth in revolt 06 Youth In Revolt Review

It’s really hard to relate all this, and therein lies the major problem of Youth In Revolt. The movie is trying to tell too many stories in too short of a time. It never establishes any narrative arc, but rather meanders from one plot point to the next, introducing characters, discarding them just as quickly, starting up episodic story lines and ending them again until finally the end credits roll and the whole thing tries to claim some “thematic journey.” Too bad that many viewers will be so bored or confused by then to notice.

The characters are no help either. I know a lot of people wrote Michael Cera off as playing yet another version of the same awkward teen he always plays – but believe me, it’s never that clear-cut. Nick is at times cynical, awkward, confident, diabolical, crazy and petty – and that’s just when he’s being Nick. The whole “Francois” alter-ego thing? Hardly a relevant part of the story at all. The kids in the film all talk like they’re high society debonairs – the adults in the film all behave like aged caricatures from your average raunchy teen flick. Is there something “smart” in that role reversal? Many viewers will be too annoyed by the way these kids talk to ever wonder.

Youth In Revolt Photo Youth In Revolt Review

When thinking of the best analogy to describe this film, I ultimately landed on this: “Imagine if Wes Anderson made a teen rebellion flick.” Director Miguel Arteta (Chuck & Buck) seems to be channeling some Anderson here, with stylistic nods to the French New Wave (“La Nouvelle Vague”) movement of the 60s. There are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments in Youth In Revolt, but many of them feel isolated and coincidental rather than carefully planned and executed. The rest of the time I was sitting there thinking, “This is so weird,”  although not quite in a “Give me my money back,” kind of way – which only made the experience that much stranger.

In the end, Youth In Revolt isn’t really bad, it isn’t really good, it just is. A weird departure from the usual teen coming-of-age flick that many will not appreciate. My advice? Spare yourself the ticket price – and probably even the rental price when it hits DVD. But when the film reaches cable, have a look at this strange, at times funny, at times smart film for yourself and then let me know what you manage to get out of it.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

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  1. I absolutely agree with this review. A terrible case of false advertising. Not only was the alternate persona thing hardly a part of the story, the film was advertised as much more of a comedy than it actually was. I also wondered why on earth the depressed friend and the stoner brother were included in the story, as they served no purpose.

  2. I am tired of Michael Cera. He seems to play the same character always. I am glad this got bad reviews because I thought it was going to be bad. If you have to advertise that someone “from the Hangover” is in your film, then that isn't going to go well. You shouldn't have to rely on another popular movie to get people to your movie.

  3. It's interesting because when the original posters came out Zach Galifianakis' name was not on them until about a month before release. I haven't seen the movie, but I have read the book and the role he plays is incredibly small. Clearly someone over at Dimension thought they needed a boost.

  4. See, when I was watching the movie I lvoed it. I thought it was brilliant since Nick Twisp is the idealized teenage boy and Sheeni is the idealized girl, and it's how Nick tries so hara and does so much to be with Sheeni. I love a thte end of the movie, when Nick is trying to explain to sheeni why he did all this, he says, “I did this so you wouldn't be alone anymore.” That's perfect because, me being a teenager, feel alone all the time and here comes this guy, not the best or anything but does all this for you, so you're never lonely anymore.

  5. I don't think the movie was “dumb,” per se – just that it was trying to be smart without being engaging enough. Many people won't care enough to “get it.”

  6. As a longtime fan of the book, I really enjoyed the first third of the movie (up until he moved to Ukiah). Even though a lot was obviously cut out, it stayed true to the spirit of the book and characters. As for the reviewers comments about Paul and Trent being introduced too late, and about the random plot twists near the end, this was the consequence of cutting major characters and key plot points from the book out of the movie. I understand the need for this, as the book is over 800 pages. However eliminating the layers of plotting and deception, key characters to the plotline, and turning the month that Nick lived as Carlotta into a few minutes, The rest seemed forced. Paul is much more important in the book, and Trent much more three dimentional. The book is a carefully crafted symphony of Nick's manipulation of all the people around him, and the majority of that was not in the movie.

  7. I agree – the trailer seemed to have a whole different premise!
    The main plot seems to be “16 year old frantically wants to get laid.” Was there more there? Didn't read the book (think book Twisp was only 14. @ 20 or so that would be hard to pull off, even for Cera…)
    He keeps looking around & everybody seems to be getting action but him!
    I LOVE Michael Cera! Will SOMEBODY give that boy a decent script, though!
    His alter-ego is proof that he has talent. He has that dry Bob Newhart kind of style – and he pulls it off!
    (I loved him in “The Year One” — haven't seen his other work)
    All-in-all I think this is a better movie than it looks like at first glance.

  8. i just imagined the whole movie as a stop-motion movie. somehow that made me feel a little better. weird, huh?

  9. i just imagined the whole movie as a stop-motion movie. somehow that made me feel a little better. weird, huh?

  10. This review is way off the mark. I feel the audience member writing the review should have taken the time to develop a sense of humor before embarking upon the film; thus, it would have made much more sense.