"Kiss me, you weenie!"
Miguel Arteta's film adaptation of the popular, 1990s coming-of-age novel, Youth in Revolt by C.D. Payne, is a strange, interesting work filled with amusing performances. Michael Cera plays Nick Twisp, his usual archetype, but with a strange alter ego named Francois Dillinger, a French bad ass, who gets Nick into trouble.
Portia Doubleday gives off a quiet allure as the object of Nick's affection. I expected either a manipulative, femme fatale-type, manipulative performance but Portia played Sheeni Saunders with a charming yet naive aloofness that makes the ridiculous situations work. Her performance feels particularly effortless for the newcomer that balances out the film and propels Nick's actions to win her affections.
The strength of the film is the mannered, comedic performances of the very deep supporting cast who ground the film. Jean Smart as Nick's erratic mother, Ray Liotta as Estelle's fascist boyfriend, Justin Long, Adhir Kalyan, Mary Kay Place, Fred Willard, Erik Knudsen, and Zach Galifianakis.
The book is beloved and very quirky, but quite long. The film works as compact light entertainment but you can feel that they chopped up partial narratives and cut characters arcs and development to fit in all the good parts and construct a sensible teen sex comedy. Youth in Revolt makes me interested to visit its source material. Watching the film gives you a sense of strange satisfaction. I left wanting much more of the characters, their charm, wit, and humour, but also more from the structure and payoff of the film's narrative.
The film has its problems and struggles through beats of humour. The cast is so deep in talent, it was almost a waste. It feels as if the film is pieced together from parts of the novel, which it probably was. Youth in Revolt is definitely worth watching but I am more intrigued by the film's characters than the film itself. It surely is a interesting but somewhat flat experience. The direction and writing needed some stronger focus in order to give the actors more to work with. That said, the film was more than fun and enjoyable and the cast clearly shines with the material they were given.