Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) isn’t your average teenager. He’s incredibly intelligent, very introverted, and deeply romantic; the sort of boy who fantasizes about reading the New York Times while listening to Frank Sinatra with his beloved. He’s also single and has never had a girlfriend. This old soul is not exactly popular with the girl’s his age, and he’s never met a girl who really captured his interest, either, until Sheenie (Portia Doubleday). Sheenie is pretty, witty, and even smarter than he is, all of which make Nick instantly besotted with her. She is also just as disaffected by life and exasperated with her parents (overzealous Bible-thumpers) as he is with his parents (divorcees who have since moved on with deeply annoying new partners).
When Nick meets Sheenie on a “family” vacation with his mom, Estelle (Jean Smart), and her disgusting boyfriend, Jerry (Zach Galifianakis), he experiences a joy and euphoria unlike anything he’s ever experienced before, and as they spend more time together, he becomes convinced that they are soulmates. The fact that Sheenie’s parents hate him, that she has a boyfriend, and that they live hundreds of apart all do nothing to discourage him. Nick is determined that, now that he’s found his soulmate, he won’t let her slip through his fingers.
Encouraged by Sheenie to do whatever it takes, Nick develops an alter ego, François Dillinger, Sheenie’s would-be future French husband. François has Nick’s brains as well as the initiative and bravado that he lacks and together, the two embark on a campaign of felonies, lies, roadtrips, conspiracies, and drugs in order to manipulate circumstances so that Nick and Sheenie might be together. Nick and Sheenie are an odd couple to root for, initially. Sheenie’s casual manner often makes the audience presume, at first, that she is just testing Nick, toying with his emotions to see just how far he’ll go. Nick is manipulative and scheming to the point of dangerously tampering with Sheenie’s academic career, and exploiting the feelings of someone else in order to do so. Conversely, Sheenie respects Nick as a person; he’s not just some boy she keeps stringing along to bestow attention upon her. Meanwhile Nick, while seriously taken with Sheenie’s looks, appreciates her as a whole person, actually listens when she speaks, and sees her as far more than just another pretty face.
Completely hysterical, sometimes alarming, and even a bit touching, Youth in Revolt , based on the novel by C.D. Payne, is the fantasy of anyone who’s ever met the right person at the worst possible time. With a hilarious supporting cast and a hopelessly romantic, albeit mildly deranged protagonist, this film raises the bar of “I’d do anything to be with you.”
I give this one 3.75 stars.