Youth in Revolt (Blu-ray)
Studio: Sony (Dimension)
Film Length: 90 min.
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Codec: AVC
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles: English; English SDH
Disc Format: 1 25 GB
Theatrical Release Date: Jan. 8, 2010
Blu-ray Release Date: June 15, 2010
Youth in Revolt suffered the fate of many productions by the Brothers Weinstein. They funded an offbeat film, then lost their nerve when it came time to distribute. The film was repeatedly pulled from the release schedule, only to be dumped half-heartedly into January 2010 on just over 1800 screens. Critics were generally favorable, but word-of-mouth was terrible, because the ad campaign relied heavily on star Michael Cera – and Youth in Revolt isn’t the kind of film for which Cera has been popular. It just looks like it on the surface.
Sixteen-year-old Nick Twisp (Cera) lives a sexually frustrated life in Oakland, California with his floozy of a divorced mother, Estelle (Jean Smart). When not suffering the indignity of watching his mom canoodle with her latest boyfriend, a boozy trucker named Jerry (Zach Galifianakis), Nick entertains himself with Sinatra tunes, foreign films and sardonic narration, all of which brands him as even more an outsider.
Visiting his father, George (Steve Buscemi), isn’t much relief, because George’s attention is devoted to making puppy eyes at his 25-year-old girlfriend, Lacey (the always hilarious Ari Graynor). No one can blame Nick for thinking that his parents aren’t the grown-ups in the family. His mother’s neighbor, Mr. Ferguson (Fred Willard), an overgrown hippie who devotes his time to sheltering illegal aliens, seems mature by comparison.
But things change for Nick when he and his mother are hustled away to Jerry’s “cabin” in the small town of Ukiah, because Jerry needs to hide from sailors to whom he sold a lemon of a used car. There Nick meets Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), who is everything Nick desires in a woman. Beautiful, exotic and sexually confident, Sheeni wants to travel, loves all things French, and knows more about world cinema than Nick does. There are just two problems: a tall existing boyfriend named Trent (Jonathan B. Wright); and devoutly religious parents who are deeply suspicious of Nick (Mary Kay Place and M. Emmet Walsh).
The remainder of the film depicts Nick’s increasingly absurd efforts to win the woman of his dreams. Since Nick has no one he can turn to for advice – his best friend, Lefty (Erik Knudsen), is even less experienced with women than Nick – he invents a fictitious helpmate: an alter ego he christens “Francois Derringer” (also played by Cera). Francois is everything that Nick is not: amoral, self-assured and a badass. He also dresses better and smokes constantly.
Aided by Francois, Nick proceeds to (a) get himself thrown out of his mother’s house so that he can live with his dad (causing millions of dollars in property damage in the process); (b) arrange for his dad to take a new job in Ukiah so that Nick can be close to Sheeni; © infiltrate the exclusive prep school to which Sheeni’s parents send her to get her away from Nick; (d) engineer Sheeni’s expulsion from the school; (e) demolish Trent’s reputation through a campaign of outrageous rumors and lies; and (f) engage in various strategies to evade the authorities, including a faked suicide and a cross-dressing disguise. Nick also dupes his mom’s neighbor, Mr. Ferguson, into helping him and parties with Sheeni’s drugged-out older brother, Paul (Justin Long).
If all of this sounds ludicrous, that’s because it is, though it’s played with a straight face by all concerned. But even if the actors don’t wink at the audience, the film does – in its timing, its edits, its musical selections and the occasional bursts of animation that flood across the screen. The director is Miguel Arteta, who revealed a sharp, even nasty satirical edge in Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl, but here Arteta is operating without the screenwriter of those films, Mike White, whose work always retains a core of humanity, even at its most extreme. (Youth in Revolt was scripted by Gustin Nash, from the novel by C.D. Payne.) So Arteta is free to indulge his mean streak, and the result is a film where every character is one you laugh at. There’s no one you laugh with.
The basic template for teen comedy was perfected by the late John Hughes, and he did it so well that it hasn’t worn out. No matter how geeky, obnoxious, uncool or inadvertently destructive the main character may be, he (or she) remains a fundamentally decent person who’s simply misunderstood and/or unfairly persecuted (often by adults) and who will, in the end, be seen as a wonderful person. In films like Juno and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Michael Cera seemed born to play such a character, but Nick Twisp isn’t one of them. When Nick creates his alter ego, Francois, all he’s really doing is letting his true self emerge, minus the inhibitions. At heart, he’s as selfish and self-involved as the adults to whom he feels superior. (Given who his parents are, is it any wonder?) Much of the film’s dark humor comes from watching Nick try to be a manipulative mastermind, and while he achieves small victories, he’s utterly inept when it comes to anything important.
None of the other teens fit the Hughes mold either. Sheeni Saunders is beautiful and alluring, but she’s also shallow and cruel in her sexual teasing of Nick. Her brother Paul is downright scary, although he does host one of the most unusual Thanksgiving dinners I’ve ever seen in a film. The closest thing to a decent guy is Vijay (Adhir Kalyan), the Indian friend that Nick makes at his new high school in Ukiah, but he too ends up a slave to hormones.
I’m not sure who the target audience is for Youth in Revolt, but I’m pretty sure it’s not youth. Its humor is too dark, and its sensibility too misanthropic, for the audience that turns out for comedies from the Apatow factory. It’s more of an arthouse film with a mainstream cast, but if that’s your taste, it’s very, very funny.
I initially reported that this film had been released on a BD-25, but I was mistaken. It's a BD-50, as with most Sony releases. My apologies to all. The Blu-ray's image is excellent: sharp, clear and detailed, with vivid colors, especially in the animated sequences, good black levels and no evidence of excess noise reduction or other inappropriate digital tampering. I did not spot any artifacts or other digital errors.
The DTS lossless track is the only audio option (other than the commentary), and it is serviceable but unremarkable. There are a few scenes involving major effects, which I don’t want to spoil, and the soundtrack lends them appropriate punch, but they are brief. Generally, though, the track provides dialogue and voiceover, which are always clear, some light ambiance, and the musical track, which consists of various songs and original music by John Swihart. The track is capably mixed and sounds better than I remember it from the theater.
MovieIQ. This is Sony’s on-screen trivia function that uses BD-Live capabilities to provide IMDb-like information during playback. The option is selected from the “play” menu. An icon indicates when relevant information is available.
Commentary with Director Miguel Arteta and Actor Michael Cera. “Commentaries are exhausting”, Cera observes. Then he tells Arteta that they should have arranged for massages while they recorded. At that point, they’re only ten minutes into the film, but it’s already clear that this commentary won’t be laden with insight. Arteta and Cera chat continuously, but they either stick very close to the action on screen or leave the movie entirely (e.g., praising Ray Liotta, who plays a cop in the film, for his performance in Something Wild). There are interesting anecdotes along the way, such as the fact that Jean Smart did her scenes with a broken leg, but overall this is a commentary you can skip.
Deleted Scenes (HD) (10:48). There are nine scenes. Several are extended versions of scenes in the final film and others are additional bits of comic business that appear to have been cut for pacing. The quality is unusually good for deleted scenes, although the color timing is clearly unfinished.
Deleted and Extended Animated Sequences (HD) (7:45). There are five sequences, including alternate versions of the opening and closing titles.
Trailers. At startup, the disc plays trailers for Sony Blu-ray, A Single Man, Chloe and The Runaways. These can be skipped with the chapter forward button and are also available from the special features menu. The special feature menu contains additional trailers for A Prophet, The Bounty Hunter and Harry Brown.
BD-Live. Other than the film’s trailer, there are no additional features related to Youth in Revolt.
Black comedy is an acquired taste, and it’s not surprising that people who went to see Youth in Revolt expecting something like Superbad felt cheated. You don’t see a black comedy to have a rip-roaring good time. No one feels good at the end of Dr. Strangelove. Youth in Revolt isn’t anywhere near that level of achievement, but it falls on the same farcical axis. It’s a twisted film about twisted people. I love that sort of thing, but enter at your own risk.
Equipment used for this review: Panasonic BDP-BD50 Blu-ray player (DTS-HD MA decoded internally and output as analog) Samsung HL-T7288W DLP display (connected via HDMI) Lexicon MC-8 connected via 5.1 passthrough Sunfire Cinema Grand amplifier Monitor Audio floor-standing fronts and MA FX-2 rears Boston Accoustics VR-MC center SVS SB12-Plus sub
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