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Movie Review: Youth in Revolt

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If Charles Dickens had lived in the 1990s, David Copperfield might have sounded like Nick Twisp - and David Copperfield might have ended up like C.D. Payne's multi-volume novel, collected as Youth in Revolt.

Indeed, Miguel Arteta's film of Youth in Revolt (opening Friday 1/8/10) has a strong Dickensian flavor to its plotting, as Nick works his way through both the twisted landscape of suburban Oakland, Calif., and the crowded byways of his own psyche.

As played by Michael Cera, Nick is a kid who lives in his own head, particularly when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex. Like many teen protagonists, he has an uncomfortable relationship with his own virginity, i.e., he's eager to lose its acquaintance. But his colorful family life serves as an impediment for Nick in his efforts to fulfill his quest.

His mother (Jean Smart) has dumped Nick's dad (Steve Buscemi) and moved in with a questionable character named Jerry (Zach Galifianakis), who has issues of his own with the law. When Jerry drags the family up into the mountains for a vacation at a friend's cabin (in fact, a skeevy mobile home in an otherwise respectable trailer park), Nick feels bereft - until he meets Sheeni (Portia Doubleday), an adventurous female resident of the same trailer park.

Sheeni is not without her own baggage: a devoutly religious set of parents and a handsome and accomplished (but thankfully absent) boyfriend, to name two. But she and Nick are on the same wavelength about books and movies and the essential coolness of France. She seems perfect, except ...

Like a true Dickensian hero, Nick finds himself torn from Sheeni by his mother, who takes him back to Oakland.

This review continues on my website.