I will begin this article by saying that, as I have said before, I know the movies are never better than the book. That is not a comment anyone ever needs to make on the thread of one of my articles because I already know it. This is a movie column, so I am speaking solely of the movie version. If given the chance, on any occasion, always read the book over seeing the film. That said (again), on the basis of movie alone, Youth in Revolt is a trip. I think of it very much as the Fight Club for the generation who is one generation younger than gen X. It is Gen Y’s Fight Club. A story about an average boy who decides to be anything but, no matter the cost. This is also the film that made me realize there was more to Michael Cera than meets the eye.
Sort of a mix between Super Troopers and that kid in school who you wanted to punch in the face cuz he was so snarky. Trust me, here that is intentional.
At the heart of this tale, you have a young man named Nick Twisp. A bit too smart and snarky for the world he is in, he seems to wander aimlessly, adrift in the doldrums of day to day life. Nick, as mentioned, is portrayed by Michael Cera. Nick, much like a good deal of Cera’s roles, IS pretty much Michael Cera. But do not let this turn you off on this story. That Cera does not stick around for long. Flash forward a bit, and we see that Nick meets Sheeni Saunders. A girl who may as well have leapt out of Nick’s dreams and landed in his lap. She looks like everything he has ever wanted, and on top of it, she shares his (shall we say, almost Wes Anderson-esque) interests in literature, music, and overall French culture. The two hit it off, but Nick seems overly aware that Sheeni has a boyfriend. What seems like it may be so simple at first, Nick slowly realizes will not be quite that simple.
Is it trailer time? Yes, my children. Gather round. Remember what Remy says, though: Careful, as most trailers are full of subtle spoilers.
A delightful little love story, if one could dare call it that.
So what does Nick do? How is he going to win the girl over and ensure they have the life together they need and both so deserve? Well, he decides to create an alter-ego. This is kind of where the Michael Cera you know bounces, and this new, trendy, hip, douchey (yet awesome) character comes in. The name of his alter ego is Francois Dillinger. Francois (much like Tyler Durden is to “Jack” in Fight Club) is everything that his normal self is not. He is slick, confident, charismatic, but also a bit of a sociopath. The selling point in this movie was just how much fun Cera has playing the Francois character. There are points when they co-exist at the same time, and if you are one of those people like me who thought Cera was a one-note pony, this shows us he has at least two notes. It should be known both notes are kinda brilliantly used here.
They work really well together (considering they are the same person, it makes sense)
So as you can imagine, life does all it can to keep Nick and Sheeni apart. Would it be a decent love story otherwise? So Nick calls on Francois to help him get to her and ensure she is his. But over the course of the film, the things Francois does get worse and worse. It is all fun and games, until you burn down Berkley and steal some cars. At that point, you piss some people off. That is just what Nick/Francois does.
At this point I will veer from the plot a little to talk about what makes this movie work so well for me. First off, it is funny, but not in the way a movie aimed at teenagers would be. The film does not pander to its audience, and understands that these characters have grey areas between good and bad where you are not quite sure if it is okay to root for them anymore. That is the fun of the Francois character. He is the man all wish we could summon when we need him most. Even the physical touches (the mustache is what makes it) make Francois feel like his own character, just as complex as Nick. You know the decisions made at certain points are pretty awful (hey, can you drug Sheeni with sedatives so she falls asleep in class, gets expelled, and her and I can be together again?), but in an odd way, you never stop rooting for him. He digs this chick, and has made it his life mission to both be with her, and lose his V-card to her. Oh, I failed to mention that, huh? Well, it is a teen comedy, so to speak. So of course the hunt for sex has to be in there somewhere.
I mean, even I would f*ck Francois, and I don’t even swing that way.
I also want to take a moment to shout-out the ending. Not just the ending, but the animated sequence that rolls during the credits (which further tells the end of the story). It is a bit funny, a bit twisted, and all kind of sweet in an oddly inexplicable way. Above all else, the movie worked for me because the cast was awesome, the writing is deft and intelligent, and Cera steps so far outside his box, you can’t help but admire him for it. I also think a little Francois bled into the most recent season of Arrested Development. Think back, he was a bit of a stud suddenly. Those writers are keen, and I genuinely feel that connection is intentional. Just another reason to enjoy this great little movie.
So check out Youth in Revolt. The Fight Club for generation Y. A sordid, complicated, intriguing, and oft hilarious love story that stands far about as far away from the pack as one can. Honestly, see it just for Cera’s Francois Dillinger. An incredibly compelling and fun character to watch, he is what makes this movie shine. I will leave you with one final quote from Francois/Nick, that kind of sums up this movie, sums up film, and sums up life:
Amen to that, brother. Amen to that.
Dig this stuff, head over to my site on Tuesday and Thursday to see the new pieces I churn out over there, and then head over here so we can sit and talk about your alter ego and why it is sexually harassing me.