STARS > Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, Zach Galifianakis, Fred Willard, Justin Long, Ari Graynor

DIRECTOR > Miguel Arteta

RATING > [4/5]


Ever since Arrested Development (otherwise known as the funniest show ever to air on network television) went tits up in 2006, Michael Cera has been more or less reprising his role as the super-awkward George Michael Bluth in films like Juno, Superbad and Year One. His character always goes by a different name, but he’s essentially the same sweet, maladroit teenager; brainier than most of the adults, kind of a goody two-shoes, and not exactly smooth with the ladies. In Youth In Revolt, Cera does a variation on this familiar theme, but with a satisfying R-rated twist. Not only does he play the sweet, maladroit (but decidedly sneaky) 16-year-old Nick Twisp; he also plays Nick’s foul-mouthed, chain-smoking, hollow-eyed alter ego, Francois Dillinger. It’s all in service of getting the girl-in this case, a precocious trailer-park Francophile named Sheeni Saunders (Doubleday). To do so, Nick must outsmart and manipulate a cast of characters that includes his beleaguered father (Buscemi), out-to-lunch mom (Smart), her crooked boyfriend (the always-ingenious Galifianakis in way too short of a turn), Sheeni’s exceedingly religious parents (the excellent M. Emmet Walsh and Mary Kay Place), and a prickly cop played by Ray Liotta.

Based on the 1993 novel by C.D. Payne, Youth In Revolt incorporates a few of the same indie sensibilities as two of Cera’s previous films, Juno (ribald small-town dysfunction, hyper-astute teenagers) and this year’s Paper Heart (well-placed animated sequences with a carefully homemade look), but in the kind of deftly absurdist fashion that results in brilliant magic-mushroom interludes and Cera spending much of his time running from authority figures in nothing but his boxer shorts. Director Miguel Arteta, who previously helmed 2000’s masterfully uncomfortable Chuck & Buck and the 2002 Jennifer Aniston vehicle The Good Girl (both written by and starring Mike White), seamlessly integrates Nick’s alternate Tyler Durden-esque persona into the action, resulting in some of the film’s richest comedic interplay. All told, Youth In Revolt is a coming-of-age triumph, and easily Cera’s finest big-screen performance to date. –J. Bennett

Read an interview with Cera’s Youth In Revolt co-star, Ari Graynor, in AP 259, on sale Jan. 5.