Youth in Revolt (Blu-ray Review)14 Jun, 2010 By: Mike Clark
Box Office $15.3 million
$28.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for sexual content, language and drug use.
Stars Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Ari Graynor, Rooney Mara, Zach Galifianakis, Jean Smart, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, Steve Buscemi, Mary Kay Place, M. Emmet Walsh, Fred Willard.
As the recipient of more passing reviews than any movie that opens on graveyard-ish Jan. 8 almost ever gets, this self-conscious amuser lets Michael Cera expand his range a little (say, from A-to-D) while proving that you can never underestimate the good will that can be engendered with the right supporting cast.
Or to put it another way, any movie that gives us a bare-chested Fred Willard lying face down on the living room floor after ingesting psychedelic mushrooms earns at least enough points to get in the front door.
There are other personal favorites here as well: Jean Smart, Steve Buscemi and M. Emmet Walsh (someone I figured must be about 120 by now yet is only 72 — and cast, of all possibilities, as one who has fathered a comely teenaged daughter with Mary Kay Place).
Ultimately, though, you have to term this a Cera vehicle: He not only riffs on his standard diffident persona but also plays a second role (wormy mustache and all) as a cigarette-smoking alter ego named “Francois Dillinger.” Both the latter’s first and last names spell out the character; Francois is the devil on the shoulder of the “good” Cera (an Oakland-area adolescent named Nick Twisp), offering lots of fairly sociopathic advice. Francois has been around, and it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that he has read a lot of Henry Miller.
For their ages (teenagers, which adds a fairly randy aspect to some of the goings-on here), the protagonists are smart, or at least a lot sharper than contemporary Hollywood’s regular mallrat demographic. Nick is obsessed with the Sinatra Capitol albums (good move), and the girl of his dreams corrects him when she notes that Yasujiro Ozu and not Kenji Mizoguchi directed Tokyo Story. Of course, this in part explains how she becomes the girl of his dreams, though give Nick credit for at least even vague familiarity with the movie in the first place (if not for being naïve about a lot of other matters). And also of course, none of this is very likely — which kind of plunges Revolt into a fantasy mode that abets its anything-goes shaggy dog structure.
The young woman (character name: Sheeni) is played Portia Doubleday, a newcomer whose real-life mother, Christina Hart (an actress I don’t recall), has an arresting array of TV and movie credits that include Dracula and the Boys, The Stewardesses, Helter Skelter and something called David Cassidy: Man Undercover. As a worldly adolescent who wants to leave her trailer park and religious-fanatic parents for a life in France, Sheeni is a screenwriting conceit with the potential to become overly precious in short order (same goes for the movie as a whole, which is adapted from a C.D. Payne novel). But you can see from Doubleday’s screen test, which is included with others on the DVD/Blu-ray bonus section, that she came naturally to what can’t have been the easiest role.
Smart plays Nick’s male-experienced mother, Buscemi his father and Willard a family friend. Place and Walsh are Sheeni’s parents whose rather cool trailer has a second story (Walsh is a lawyer). Ray Liotta plays a cop and (for awhile) Smart boyfriend who (for awhile) protects Nick from arrest for having burned down half the city in one of his constant mishaps.
There’s an awful lot of nasty stuff that happens in this movie — and quite a lot of it perpetrated by Nick reacting affirmatively to some goosing from his alter ego. But Cera’s personality is so unthreatening that the entire movie takes on an air of whimsy — something that animated sequences and the mere presence of Willard automatically abet. Less successful overall than an agreeable near-miss, Revolt at least hasn’t lost anything over the subsequent six months, in which about 90% of the Hollywood product has looked as if it should have opened on Jan. 8 as well.