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YOUTH IN REVOLT (director: Miguel Arteta; screenwriter: Gustin Nash/from the novel “Youth in Revolt: the Adventures of Nick Twisp” by C.D. Payne; cinematographer: Chuy Chávez; editors: Andy Keir/Pamela Martin; music: John Swihart; cast: Michael Cera (Nick Twisp and François), Portia Doubleday (Sheeni Saunders), Jean Smart (Estelle Twisp), Zach Galifianakis (Jerry), Steve Buscemi (George Twisp), Fred Willard (Mr. Ferguson), Ray Liotta (Lance Wescott), Justin Long (Paul Saunders), Mary Kay Place (Mrs. Saunders), M. Emmet Walsh (Mr. Saunders), Jonathan Bradford Wright (Trent), Ari Graynor (Lacey), Erik Knudsen (Lefty), Adhir Kalyan (Vijay Joshi), Jade Fusco (Bernice Lynch); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producer: David Permut; Dimension Films; 2009)
“Coming-of-age teen pic, an homage to Breathless, which will probably not take away your breath.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Miguel Arteta (“Chuck & Buck”/”The Good Girl”) directs this coming-of-age teen pic, an homage to Breathless, which will probably not take away your breath. It’s based on the first three volumes in C.D. Payne’s six-book series, as the 1993 novel Youth in Revolt was collected under one title. The mean-spirited, zany and profane screenplay is about the sex-obsessed, socially awkward, nerdy 16-year-old Nick Twisp (Michael Cera, the actor is twenty-one), a frustrated virgin who first appears on screen masturbating. It’s craftily written by Gustin Nash. Nick’s voice-over embellished the story throughout.

The miserable Nick lives in Oakland with his 48-year-old self-absorbed, promiscuous, divorced mom Estelle (Jean Smart), who has a low-life stud boyfriend named Jerry (Zach Galifianakis). When Jerry is threatened by three sailors he screwed in a car deal, the trio flee to dwell in a friend of Jerry’s run-down motor home in the Restless Axles trailer park in Ukiah. In the trailer park, Nick meets and becomes instantly smitten with Sheeni (Portia Doubleday), a sexy 16-year-old Francophile, madly attracted to the Jean-Paul Belmondo of Breathless, who is dating the rich, handsome, preppie Trent (Jonathan Bradford Wright). Becoming obsessed with Sheeni, Nick conjures up a worldly doppelgänger alter ego named François Dillinger (also played by Mr. Cera), who has a French-accent and was inspired by the Jean-Paul Belmondo of Breathless. Francois has a wispy mustache and in a bossy way gives Nick life-lessons on how to win over Sheeni. This partnership results in the mild-mannered Nick turning delinquent, as he explodes his mother’s car and trailer in Berkeley, sinks his creepy father’s (Steve Buscemi) car in a pond, gets booted out of a girl’s dorm he sneaked into for the night and gets Sheeni bounced from an exclusive French-speaking boarding school by having her jealous classmate (Jade Fusco) ply her every morning with sleeping pills.

Ray Liotta play a menacing sleazy Oakland cop, who comforts Estelle when Jerry dies of a heart attack and moves in to live with her. Fred Willard plays Estelle’s bleeding heart neighbor, adding some comic relief. Justin Long plays Sheeni’s bad boy psychedelic mushroom indulging jokester older brother. Mary Kay Place and M. Emmet Walsh play Sheeni’s domineering right-wing Christian parents.

Cera’s believable performance as an innocent gone astray elevates the slight material and makes it bearable, at least for those who can stand pics about horny wimp teen boys trying to score hot chicks. It’s a role that seems to suit Cera just fine, even though it’s becoming too familiar and in this one the laughs were few and far between.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”