Michael Cera is seriously typecast. He is an actor that suffers from his own success. Films like Superbad, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Juno, have sealed his fate as the likable, sweet and vulnerable “boy-next-door.” He’s done very little to destroy this image and unfortunately it seems like his career is beginning to suffer because of it.
It’s very refreshing to see him play on that typecasting, whether intentionally or not, in Youth in Revolt. He does seem to play the usual “Michael Cera” character, hopeless with the girls but sweet and likable, but this time with a Jekyll and Hyde style twist. His character creates a fantastic alter-ego called Francois, a version of Cera with a pencil moustache and an edgy attitude.
It’s the classic idea of a character that says and does things that the main character would never dare. It’s not particularly original but its made all that better here because its Michael Cera that gets to act in the edgy way. It adds to the humour, makes the more crude and “straight-to-the-point” lines so much better and as we watch his character self-destruct with Francois’ crazy actions, we empathise with the Michael Cera character we are used too, so much more.
My main criticism is that there isn’t actually enough of the Francois character in the film. Considering the creation/transformation of this character was a huge marketing tool for the film, he doesn’t make a lasting impact. He appears at key moments and plays an integral part in the film but I wanted something more like Fight Club, with the twist being revealed and played on throughout the film. Considering these were the best parts of the film, there just didn’t feel like there was enough of them.
It also falls into the trap of trying too hard to be “indie.” For some reason, indie means quirky and there are set criteria you must adhere too. The opening titles have to be animated, even if it makes little to no impact or sense on the wider film. You have to have a “normal” child with dysfunctional/unusual parents and also an unconventional love interest. This film at times felt like “indie-by-numbers,” another trap Cera is slowly falling into.
The actual positive of the “indie-by-numbers” approach is the usual inclusion of a “Hollywood” actor in quite a small, supporting role. This film actually has two great actors make great appearances. It was unusual to see Steve Buscemi play a role bordering on “normal,” not psychotic, unhinged or creepy. It was also great to see Fred Willard make a practically cameo appearance, being able to act as crazy as he does so well.
There was also able support from Zach Galifianikis and Ray Liotta that did rise this film slightly above most other “indie” movies. In fact, there were some very funny moments, not just when Cera was playing Francois and the other, more notable actors, obviously had fun with the strange situations and characters they got to play with.
Overall, there is a lot to like about Youth in Revolt. It is very funny in places, has an unusual, interesting story and some great supporting actors. It just felt like a slightly wasted opportunity when the best aspect of the film, the crazy alter-ego, doesn’t seem to get as much screen time as I think he would warrant. It does very little for Michael Cera’s typecasting issue either.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)