Youth In Revolt, based on a cult-smash novel by C.D. Payne, is the kind of movie every average guy wishes had existed when we were teenage virgins. Directed by Miguel Arteta (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl), the film is a dark coming of age comedy with a special focus on the absurd lengths young men will go to for first loves. Or, more specifically, first lovers. But the underlying confusion between the two is what makes the film such a poignant bullseye for the desperation of youth.
Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) is a nice kid, a good student and, unfortunately for him, a virgin. Being a source of comfort (and child support) for his failure mom (Jean Smart), who’s leaped from Steve Buscemi into the arms of one Mr. Zach Galifianakis (and later a creepy-cop Ray Liotta), has worn out its welcome for Nick – particularly when he meets the beautiful and danger-inclined Sheeni (Portia Doubleday). She sticks out in trailer-park land like a diamond in mud, with greater aspirations and goals than most.
All of a sudden, all that niceness is quite the problem for Nick. The taste of love leads him to desperate measures, embodied by his "supplemental personality" – a pencil-mustachioed, skinny-white-slacks-wearing troublemaker named Francois Dillinger. The hysterically dickish Francois inspires Nick to act out his fantasies, to build the bad-boy image that Sheeni clearly desires, and finally win the girl – not to mention the key to losing his virginity. He embarks on a road trip to win back his love, burning down Berkeley, getting Sheeni expelled from boarding school and becoming a federal fugitive in the process. Ah, puppy love.
Abandoning the ridiculous conventions of teen romances, Youth In Revolt manages to hilariously succeed at taking a Fight Club alter-ego coping-and-confidence-enhancing mechanism and mix it with the most saccharine of storylines – teenage love. Cera is absolutely side-splitting as Dillinger, but it’s through Cera’s formidable timing and conviction that his Nick character is full of relatable teenage desperation, rather than a caricature of it. That’s the secret ingredient here, and the added spice makes the entire dish a brilliant one.
Go see Youth In Revolt. If you’ve ever felt the pangs of awkward teenage loneliness, if you’ve ever been desperate to get laid, if you’ve ever developed an alternate persona to engage in various felonious behavior to impress the girl of your dreams, this film is for you.