Monday, May 28, 2012

Youth in Revolt

Nick Twisp is a polite, intelligent 16 year-old virgin. Meeting a hot, willing temptress (Portia Doubleday) on vacation compels him to create a rule-breaking “supplementary personality” (Cera as “François”, mustachioed, beloafered, permanently smoking) to help him get kicked out of home (child support issues) and reunited with his sweetheart. He does so in grand style, just as she’s carted off to boarding school, and he has her parents and ex-boyfriend to deal with also.

The supporting cast is excellent – Fred Willard, Justin Long, Jean Smart, Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, Zach Galafianakis, M. Emmett Walsh, Mary Kay Place – but none gets much of a chance to shine (Buscemi is perfect casting as the sire of Cera, and Willard of course turns his moments into gold). The standard teen rom-com formula is in effect, but with a welcome air of intelligence and lack of unnecessary vulgarity – the wanking joke is dispensed with immediately, and a later erection gag turns out to be a nice set-up for Doubleday. That her character is a paper-thin fantasy is a shame, if appropriate (could Nick have dreamt her up too? Er, sadly not).

The first half is better than the second – pre-credits exposition is particularly deft – and Cera plays Cera to perfection, and François is somehow not the ideal he dreams of: if Cera cannot for the life of him play cool, it’s somehow better that François comes off as a semi-deranged psychic projection. For the most part it is pretty funny, but there’s a more twisted comedy supressed in the id fantasy, and the story revolves ultimately around not wanting to go to jail a virgin. It’s hard to dislike a movie with spot-on gags about Japanese film-makers and futurist percussive poetry (even if the latter makes no sense in character terms, though a high tolerance for whimsical animated interludes is required.

d Miguel Arteta p David Permut sc Gustin Nash ph Chuy Chávez ed Andy Keir, Pamela Martin pd Tony Fanning m John Swihart cast Michae Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Zach Galafianakis, Erik Knudsen, Adhir Kalyan, Fred Willard, Justin Long, Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, M. Emmett Walsh, Mary Kay Place
(200, USA, 90m)
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