Tag Archives: Nick Twisp

Review: Youth in Revolt

Need to spice up your life a bit? Just create a supplementary persona to do it for you; it works for Michael Cera in Youth in Revolt. Join helplessly awkward Cera, suave and deviant Cera and a slew of other odd characters on a senseless, yet amusing ride to achieving sexual bliss. The movie doesn’t pack the same punch as the book, but still manages to create a wildly entertaining blend of teen love, awkwardness and vulgarity.

Nick Twisp (Cera) is a sexually frustrated teen from Oakland, California. His desperation to vanquish his virginity takes a back seat to other issues including his detestation for his mother’s live-in boyfriend Jerry (Zach Galifianakis) until he meets the girl of his dreams on a vacation to a trailer park in Ukiah. Of course, the trip eventually comes to an end and his budding romance with Sheeni (Portia Doubleday) must come to an end. Well, not if there’s anything Nick can do about it. Or should I say Francois Dillinger? Through his dashing and deviant alter ego, Nick does everything bad and unruly to be reunited with his love.

In just 90 minutes screenwriter Gustin Nash manages to squeeze in a significant amount of C.D. Payne’s 499-page book. Not in great detail of course, but Nash honors just about all of the key points any fan of the book would hope to see in the film version. At some point, the detail-heavy story sinks, yet, at other times, it keeps it firmly afloat. The highs and lows balance out making the overall experience mildly pleasant.

First, let’s get the bad out of the way. The plot is very thin. A number people, incidents and emotions are visited, but only vaguely. Even Nick’s relationship with Sheeni isn’t quite justified. His infatuation with her is blatant, but you’re never convinced that it’s true love and not merely a teen crush. Sheeni is in a similar situation. Her boyfriend Trent (Jonathan B. Wright) is MIA over the summer, so Nick fills the void. That part works but when the relationship transitions into something more serious you’re too busy wondering why Sheeni ditched her all-American man for meek and meager Nick.

Underdeveloped plot points plague the secondary characters as well. In the most critical condition is Sheeni’s brother, Paul (Justin Long). His sole purpose in the film is to initiate an especially humorous segment involving a mouthful of mushrooms. The scene certainly garners the biggest laugh, but doesn’t validate Paul’s inclusion in the film. Rather than throw in more characters, Nash should have paid more attention to the ones more necessary to include, like Lefty and Vijay (Erik Knudsen and Adhir Kalyan).

Even with the little attention they’re given, both of Nick’s buddies make an impact. The same goes for Nick’s father and his Oakland neighbor Mr. Ferguson (Steve Buscemi and Fred Willard). Cera is 110% the focus of the film, but even when secluded to milling around the background, both Buscemi and Willard get the job done. Sheeni’s parents contribute to some of the movie’s most memorable moments as well, particularly seeing M. Emmet Walsh with a face full of mashed potatoes. Sheeni, on the other hand, isn’t very memorable herself and it’s not Doubleday’s fault. In fact, she’s an absolutely natural on screen. She’s one of those actresses that could just stand there and smile and you’ll still find her character endearing.

Sheeni falls victim to the Michael Cera one-man show. Nick is meant to be the film’s main character, but that doesn’t mean every minute has to be about him. Scenes that should have been purporting other character’s feelings wind up being twisted and turned so Cera can squeeze in a few extra one-liners. Again, this is the fault of Nash. The role of Nick Twisp belonged to Michael Cera from the instant C.D. Payne penned the book. No, this isn’t Cera’s shinning moment that will show the world he’s capable of playing someone other than geeky and awkward, but that’s exactly what this role calls for. He does get the chance to stretch his legs a little when in Francois’ shoes, but it really only requires a deeper smug and a pair of aviators.

Youth in Revolt has a lot to pick on, but even with its faults, manages to come together for an immensely enjoyable experience. The dialogue is quick, monotone and, at times, will go over your head, but when a line hits, it hits hard. No life lessons to be learned here, but that’s no the point. C.D. Payne’s book is an utterly absurd love story and so is the movie. It’s colorful, lighthearted and pretty damn funny.

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It’s Time To Grow Up: Books To Read Before Seeing The Movies

I hated reading in high school. In fact, I don’t think I ever read a book assigned in its entirety. It wasn’t that I was rebelling against being forced to read a particular book; I was a good student and almost always did what I was told. I could have picked up a book in my spare time, but I had better things to do. It wasn’t until I had nothing better to do with my free time, that I gave reading a chance.

My first job after graduating from college was a News Assistant at NY1 News. Being a News Assistant is an extremely physically demand job – I’m a small girl who was carrying 60 lbs. in camera equipment ten hours a day – but there’s also a ton of down time. One day, I waited over four hours for a perpetrator to be escorted from a prison to a waiting car. (Yes, capturing a perp walk is that important in local news.) I was desperate for entertainment and that desperation was sated by the medium I despised most, books.

I didn’t do a complete turnaround and become an avid reader. There’s one rule to my book selection process: the book must be in the process of being adapted to film or optioned for adaption. Clearly my passion is film. Combine the entertainment of reading a book with a passion and you get the ultimate source of pleasure. Even beyond the immediacy of the entertainment derived from reading, having read a book before seeing the film adaption is one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever experienced.

The whole process is fascinating; to see who’s cast, what they look like in full costume, seeing the story unfold on screen, even assessing what portions of the book are translated and what parts are removed. When you read a book without accompanied imagery, you’re creating a world using your imagination. Yes, a good author will provide a detailed narrative so the reader can properly assemble the environment the writer strives to convey, but every reader’s world differs to a point. Then, when you see that world come to life on film, the wheels in your mind spin nearly out of control. You’re not just a spectator; you’re part of the film. It’s not just the author’s story being brought to life, it’s yours too.

Most of you will get this experience when you check out Where the Wild Things Are on October 16th, but there’s a whole bunch of movies coming out soon that find their origins in fantastic books. Here are a few you might want to read before seeing the movie.

ShutterIslandCoverShutter Island
I currently have a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to Shutter Island. Not that I don’t expect the film to be any good, I’m just bitter that I have to wait so long to see it. The film adaption of Dennis Lehane’s novel was due to hit theaters this month, but recently was pushed back to a February 2010 release. Maybe I’ll just have to read the book again. It’s about two U.S. Deputy Marshals, Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule, who are sent to Shutter Island to investigate a missing persons case. This isn’t just any missing person; Rachel Solando is a patient at Shutter Island’s Ashecliffe Psychiatric Hospital, home of the criminally insane. This book makes your head spin so much you’ll feel like an Ashecliffe patient yourself.
(In Theaters February 19th, 2010)

Derby Girl
You’re probably more familiar with the name of the feature film version of this book, Whip It. The book is about a young girl named Bliss Cavendar who’d rather get rowdy on the roller derby track than participate in beauty pageants. Knowing her parents will not approve of her new hobby, Bliss sneaks off to the Doll House to kick some ass as Babe Ruthless of the Hurl Scouts. The character Bliss screams Ellen Page. Think a non-pregnant Juno with athleticism. A fun side note, the author of Derby Girl, Shauna Cross, is a member of the Los Angeles Derby Dolls roller derby league. She also wrote the screenplay for Whip It. The movie already hit theaters, but Derby Girl is a quick read and still worth checking out post-film.
(In Theaters October 2nd, 2009)

UpInTheAirCoverUp In The Air
With all of the Oscar buzz surrounding Up In The Air, reading the Walter Kim novel the film is based on is a must. George Clooney plays the lead character, Ryan Bingham, a guy who travels the country working as a career transition counselor. Simply put, he flies around the country firing people. Ryan’s somber line of work and lack of a social life are of no concern to him. He has something much more important to worry about, earning one million frequent flyer miles. After reading the book it was very hard to imagine it being successfully translated to film. It has a plot, but it doesn’t seem strong enough to drive a feature length film. I guess when you have Jason Reitman behind the lens and George Clooney in front of it, anything is possible.
(Limited Release on December 4th, 2009. Opens Wide on December 25th, 2009)

TheLovelyBonesCoverThe Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones is one of the most moving pieces of literature I’ve ever read. By the time you finish it, you’ll have gone through an incredible range of emotions. It’s about a young girl named Susie Salmon who’s brutally murdered on her way home from school. From there we see her watch over her family from heaven and how her passing changes their lives. While the book may be perfect for film, it’s also a very temperamental piece. Depicting heaven on the big screen can go one of two ways; it can be completely rejected or wholeheartedly embraced. Based on the trailer and early buzz about the film, Peter Jackson will not disappoint. On the other hand, I can’t say the same for Mark Wahlbeg. Thanks to his performance in The Happening and Andy Samberg’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live, it’ll be difficult to take his performance seriously.
(Limited Release on December 11th, 2009. Opens Wide on January 15th, 2010)

Now this is a film that deserves much more attention than it’s been getting. Not only does Twelve have a fantastic cast, but the book that it’s based on is phenomenal. It was written by Nick McDonell when he was just 17-years-old. It’s about a bunch of kids, mostly wealthy, living in Manhattan and the impact drugs, sex and violence have on their lives. Chace Crawford will play the main character, White Mike, an extremely bright student known for selling the best marijuana money can buy but never indulging in any alcohol or drugs himself. I certainly wasn’t picturing White Mike to be as pretty as Crawford, but I’ll sacrifice my imagination to be able to look at Crawford for a couple of hours. Another unusual casting choice is Rory Culkin. I think he’s a fantastic actor, but for obvious reasons, I just don’t see him playing a tall basketball player. Anyway, the best part of the book is the climax. You become so absorbed with the characters that when that grand ending comes you’ll be in a serious state of shock. Seriously.
(In Theaters 2010)

YouthInRevoltCoverYouth In Revolt
If you read any of these books before seeing their film counterparts, Youth In Revolt by C.D. Payne should be the one. A movie with a cast including Michael Cera, Justin Long, Zach Galifianakis, Ray Liotta and Steve Buscemi sounds like a guaranteed success, but it can also turn the tale from a humorous yet meaningful coming-of-age story into a comedic absurdity. Cera plays Nick Twisp, a kid who takes teenage rebellion to the extreme. He starts out as a guy who isn’t thrilled with the parents he’s been given and turns into a wrecking crew when his love for a girl he meets on a family trip drives him insane. With the help of his alter ego, Francois Dillinger, Nick is willing to do just about anything to win Sheeni’s heart. Removing portions of a lengthy book to turn it into a movie is necessary but can be detrimental. Taking out particular parts of Youth in Revolt can easily strip the story of its warmth and turn it into any old teen comedy.
(In Theaters January 15th, 2010)

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