In Youth in Revolt -- a Catcher in the Rye meets Fight Club coming-of-age film -- Michael Cera does what many have wanted to do to Michael Cera themselves personally: whup his own sorry ass. And that is definitely worth seeing.
For me, personally, Cera's jig was up. What I found so endearing about him in Juno and amusing in Superbad became down right annoying in Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist and positively ridiculous in Year One. In a mere two years Cera had become over-exposed playing that same dry-witted, bumbling, reluctant hero.
Cera's trajectory was enough to make one feel sorry for actor Jesse Eisenberg (The Squid and the Whale). He was Michael Cera before Michael Cera became Michael Cera. Except after Michael Cera became Michael Cera, Jesse Eisenberg was reduced to a poor man's Michael Cera. Michael Cera must have not been available to shoot Adventureland and so Jesse Eisenberg became the Michael Cera-type producers were looking for. And now with this vast Michael Cera over-exposure, is Jesse Eisenberg reclaiming his original Michael Cera status by staring in Zombieland opposite Emma Stone, a young actress who also starred opposite the actual Michael Cera in Superbad? Confused, or are you still following me here?
Okay, since I'm on a roll with the questions here, is there a reason why Eisenberg's Adventureland and Zombieland are similarly titled? Is Michael Cera somehow behind all this?
Well who the f**k cares! All that matters now is that Michael Cera finally shows us he is more than just Michael Cera in this adaptation of C.D. Payne's novel. How so? By playing a youth who revolts thanks to an Edward Norton/Brad Pitt-type alter ego that does very, very bad things that none of Cera's past characters would ever have the balls to do. (Unlike the two different actors in Fight Club, Cera plays both roles in Revolt.)
Directed by Miguel Arteta (absent from the big screen since 2002's The Good Girl), the film stars Cera as a virgin (but of course!) named Nick Twisp, who falls hopelessly in love (in typical wimpy Michael Cera fashion, obviously) with a young girl named Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday) while on a family vacation at a trailer park. Sheeni seems to like Nick back, but she's always referring to a seemingly perfect boyfriend named Trent. Plus, her parents (Mary Kay Place and M. Emmet Walsh) are fundamentalist Christians whose firstborn (Justin Long) has a penchant for doing 'shrooms.
When Sheeni utters: "You must be bad, Nickie. Be very, very bad," Nick heeds the advice and goes for it by developing a rebellious alter ego named Francois who wears tight white pants, smokes cigarettes, sports a pencil mustache and wears aviator sunglasses. Francois is so determined to see that Nick ends up sleeping with Sheeni that he leads Nick on a destructive path that involves telling off authority figures, destroying and burning down others' property and becoming a wanted fugitive.
I have to admit it's a joy watching Cera as Francois engage in this type of reckless behavior while Cera's weak Nick looks on in horror and protest. Seeing Cera/Nick get a metaphorical ass-beating by Cera/Francois is such a delight. At the same time, it gives viewers faith that the actor can actually play something other than monotonous, wise-cracking, neurotic teenagers. Francois is hysterical in his disregard for rules and authority, giving one hope that Cera might continue to explore such alternative roles if only to branch out and prolong a career that so far has been the same shtick over and over again.
Mentions must go out to Jean Smart as Nick's trailer trash mom, Zach Galifianakis and Ray Liotta as her rotating redneck idiot boyfriends and Fred Willard as their neighbor with as fanatical penchant for rescuing and harboring illegal aliens. Though these parts are small, each one is memorable long after the movie is over.