Miguel Arteta's "Youth in Revolt," starring the high-pitched and stratospherically bleak Michael Cera, will undoubtedly get lots of praise for being so much more than your garden-variety trashy teen coming-of-age flick.
I guess I'll chip in some of those congratulations as well -- it's more a thankful acknowledgment, really, that the barf jokes are kept to a minimum -- but the whole thing just seems as if it's trying too hard.
It's so desperate to be a cult classic that it comes across as overbearing.
Either you are terribly tickled by Cera's placid on-screen persona, in which he seems to pump through life with about half the pulse rate of a comparable human male, or you aren't. Arteta certainly seems to be in the first camp. Not only does he encourage his young leading man, who plays a hapless, nice 16-year-old guy desperate to lose his virginity, to deliver his lines with the kind of deadpan blandness that you normally associate with dental anesthetic, but the director asks Cera's co-stars, who depict his teenage associates, to putter down the same linguistic gravel road as well.
The result is dialogue that reminded me of the way that characters talk to each other in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel: lots of droll references and hyperbolic youthful angst all couched in a breezy, don't-betray-any-passion insolence. When Cera's Nick Twisp meets the girl of his dreams, Sheeni (Portia Doubleday), while on an extended "vacation" at a Ukiah trailer park -- actually, his mom's scary boyfriend needs to get out of town quickly -- they talk to each other in clipped, affected ways that made me think I was listening to tryouts for potential national catchphrases rather than two people honestly talking to each other.