youth-in-revolt-trailer tvln 110409

The big draw of the AFI Fest‘s 10 o’clock slot last night was not, surprisingly, Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers, but the new Michael Cera comedy (yes, it is now a genre) 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 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 great 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 (the pre-credits exposition is particularly deft) and Cera plays Cera to perfection; if he 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 very funny but there’s a more twisted comedy surpressed in the id fantasy and it ultimately revolves around not wanting to go to jail a virgin. Still, I find it hard to dislike a movie with a spot-on gags about Japanese film directors and futurist percussive poetry (even if the latter makes no sense in character terms).

(NB high tolerance for whimsical animated interludes required)

Rating: 6.5

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