Youth In Revolt – The Anti Ferris

Nike Sportswear and Flux kicked off the new year with a special advance screening of Miguel Arteta’s Youth in Revolt at The Montalbán Theater in Hollywood.

Based on the acclaimed novel by C.D. Payne, Youth in Revolt is the story of Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) – an awkward and precocious teen who prefers Sinatra and Fellini to punk and video games – who falls obsessively in love with the hyper intelligent Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday) while on a family vacation.

This movie has been 17 years in the making, after a failed MTV series and many attempts to bring it to the big screen.
The character of Nick Twisp is a daunting one to bring from the page to the silver screen. He is epic. Sort of a Holden Caulfield armed with a copy of Mad Magazine, a copy of Playboy and a torch blower.

The book is side splittingly funny, juvenile, and coming in at 499 pages, nearly impossible to adapt into lightweight summer teen fare. My thought at once was please don’t do this and if you’re going to do this: Don’t. Fuck. It. Up.

Of course the casting would always be a huge problem, Where could one find a teen self possessed enough to play Nick Twisp: a nerdy, hyper intellectual who is capably of burning down the city of Berkeley but not of talking a teenage girl into having sex with him? It takes a special kind of actor to have the charisma and charm to be the anti Ferris Bueller – to have the entire city chasing your infamous ass down.

Perhaps that is what the decade plus delay was about…enter Michael Cera.

A guy who excels at the teen dweeb deadpan with charm and aplomb.  But in taking on Twisp, Cera not only gets the familiar through line of ankling his virginity, but this time he gets to try rebel and felon on for size and adds split personality on for size, with his smooth talking, chain smoking tight white chino wearing persona, Francois, who appears mid-film.

Whittling down a massive book with a cult following is a big undertaking so it’s no surprise that it would take someone like Migel Arteta – a man who very carefully chooses his projects (Star Maps, The Good Girl) and leans towards the bizarre and controversial (Chuck and Buck) to tackle Twisp. I was surprised at how Arteta managed to cut massive amounts of the zany story line, major characters (a sister Joannie, the jock like partner in crime Fuzzy De Falco) and still somehow move the plot forward. Of course it did seem like many of these juicy characters were little more than blips on the screen – Ray Liotta’s psychotic cop Lance who in the book plays a cat and mouse game with Nick,  is barely involved here. And, I am biased, but I do think Zach Galifiankis’ swindling Jerry is much too short lived.

Also, Nick’s preppy arch nemesis Trent Preston only appears as a Deus Ex Machina in tennis whites, sort of disappointing.

But what Arteta does capture is CD Payne’s writing style and rhythm, which are the heart of the book and the heart of Nick Twisp. To take a miserable teenager, make him ‘Be Bad’ and plunk him down amidst a gaggle of characters where he shines like a diamond of morality and still manage to engage the audience in a lot of fun, well then you’ve done justice to Payne’s work. Phew.

After heaving a sigh of relief that breezy fun justice was done to the novel, I was able to relax and partake in the festivities Flux had planned for the after party.

As Sheeni and Nick were fans of vinyl, and Sheeni had a penchant for Francoise and French culture (particularly Serge Gainsbourg) film guests were invited upstairs to the mezzanine which featured a live music performance by “Paris loves L.A.” featuring Adele Jacques. French actress and singer Jacques contributes a track to the Youth in Revolt Soundtrack.

As revelers enjoyed the soothing sounds and showed their Ugly American-ness by double fisting free Belvedere vodka drinks and pushing others to get more open bar treats. Dozens of Be Bad pins crunched under foot. The crowd, though not so youthful, was in full revolt, and determined to behave badly and out-do any Twispian maneuvers. In a town like Hollywood, I’m fully aware of the damage the average hipster is capable of, so I quickly made my exit. Safe with the knowledge that Payne’s book made it to the screen, I leave it to the drunken hiptards to ‘be bad’.

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