— by ALLISON HIGGINBOTHAM —
In “Youth in Revolt,” the main character, Nick Twisp, is in search of what every high school male in films seems to want: to lose his virginity. But for a Frank Sinatra-loving, awkward teenager, losing his virginity isn’t an easy thing. Nick has the kind of strange taste in music, clothing, humor, etc. that makes it hard for women (or I imagine any of the masses) to understand him. But when his family has to hide out from some Navy men, Nick meets Sheeni Saunders and it is love at first sight.
Sheeni is obsessed with anything french and, like Nick, thinks that nothing sounds better than vinyl. All too soon, however, Nick must go back home, but Sheeni and Nick devise a plan for Nick to move back: Nick must be bad. With this directive, his alter ego, François (the name of Sheeni’s future husband), is created. François is a facial hair growing, cool clothes wearing, swearing sociopath. The film usually has Nick and François in the same shot, but whoever is speaking is the one that is heard by the other characters. With François help Nick sets a fire, crashes a French boarding school, takes a lot of shrooms, and tries to fake his own death all so he can be with Sheeni.
“Youth in Revolt” isn’t a bad movie. Stylistically, there is nothing wrong with it. It follows the quirky rom com rules of having to have some amount of animation, an indie soundtrack, and characters who like things the masses don’t. “Youth in Revolt” simply isn’t that funny. There a few laughs here and there, but that’s about it.
I think the main problem is the target audience. “Youth in Revolt” is rated R, mainly for language and some drug use. This means that if you’re under 17, a parent must see the film with you. But a movie about a 16 year old trying to lose his virginity is probably an unappealing family movie night choice (at one point in the film, I saw a mom in the audience cover her teenage son’s eyes). So then the teenage crowd depends on 17-19 year olds. But at 19, I found the constant swearing, crude sexual jokes and scenarios too immature for me. Even Michael Cera’s incredible deadpan fell flat.
On the other hand, what “Youth in Revolt” did well was showing how ridiculous teenage love can be. The characters believe they can’t live without each other. So when Nick has to leave Sheeni, the obvious solution is for his dad to get a job in Sheeni’s town. Nick then must get kicked out of his mother’s house so his dad will take him in. Those of us who have had teenage love know it’s not the end of the world, but we remember how intense those feelings were. When Nick coerces another student to kick Sheeni out of her school so she won’t be around her last boyfriend, we can all reminisce about what crazy things we did because we were jealous.
“Youth in Revolt” has a star studded class featuring Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Steve Buscemi, Jean Smart, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, Fred Willard and Zach Galifianakis. The film currently is playing everywhere.
— Click here for three clips from “Youth in Revolt.” —
Follow Allison Higginbotham on Twitter at http://twitter.com/allisonbh.