Youth in Revolt (US - BD RA)
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Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) lives the basic sixteen-year-old outcast existence. His peers confuse him, his mother (Jean Smart) embarrasses him with a revolving door of inappropriate love interests, his father is unemployed, and he’s eternally sexually frustrated. While on ‘holiday’ with his mother and her latest tryst (Zach Galifianakis) Nick meets Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), a pretty girl with similar interests. The two teens hit it off, but tragedy strikes when Sheeni reveals she’s already in a relationship with a poet named Trent (Jonathan B. Wright). Determined to keep his newfound love Nick creates an alter ego named François Dillinger, who’s willing to take any unsavoury action required to win Sheeni over.
Youth in Revolt is a very pleasant little surprise, and an important reminder to not judge a film by its advertising materials. The film’s closest cousins are not the expected Judd Apatow or Juno clones, but more edgy and arty independently minded dramedies like Ghost World, American Splendor and Rushmore. Or if we’re going old school, Harold and Maude, which gets my vote as the granddaddy of all modern dry and quirky adult comedies. I’ve discussed my issues with the glut of Wes Anderson clones that came out of Rushmore in too many of my other reviews, so it’s interesting that I’m finding so many positive comparisons between Youth in Revolt and Anderson’s first three films. I think this is because director Miguel Arteta doesn’t pick up on Anderson’s now overused obsessive visual elements. Youth in Revolt features a similarly off-centre, and somewhat sociopathic sense of humour to Rushmore. None of the characters are entirely likeable, even if we count Nick and François as different people, but their mean streaks are entirely unforgiveable. I’m sure this tone is an equally important part of C.D. Payne’s original novel, but many of the film’s biggest laughs come out of rhythm and things left unsaid.
The casting isn’t exactly brilliant, but the actors all step up to the task of filling their stereotypes without being overly predictable. Michael Cera has never been a particularly exciting screen talent, and has sat in a pretty comfortable rut since Superbad, but here I finally find myself understanding his phenomenon (and just in time for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World). Cera doesn’t play anything miles out of his comfort zone, but he creates a definitively different version of the born loser he’s been honing over the years. Nick is pathetic, but he’s not a total sap, and his sarcastic tongue is sharp enough the audience isn’t left feeling too sorry for him. This is the first time I’ve seen the guy on film that I didn’t want to stuff him in a locker, or adopt him like a puppy. The familiar members of the supporting cast follows Cera’s lead, especially Ray Liotta and Galifianakis, who steal entire scenes with simple facial expressions. The people I watched the film with had problems with the dialogue style, and I can understand possibly complaints, but unlike other unnaturally busy dialogue work (like say Diablo Cody’s films) I found the rhythms here were easy to assimilate. More importantly the cast has an easy enough time dealing with the more mouth-clogging lines, which are also among the most quotable moments.
I have to admit I wasn’t expecting much from this 1080p, 1.78:1 HD transfer, based on memories of consistently soft, low-contrast modern comedies on Blu-ray disc, but once again, I’m pleasantly surprised. Youth in Revolt still follows most of modern comedy’s visual rules, mostly in terms of a slightly hyper-active colours. The overall pallet doesn’t go out of its way to draw huge attention away from the story or characters, but the film is tinted with a slight gold sheen, and basic hues are more vibrantly realized than what one would consider natural. The transfer sets itself apart with incredibly sharp details, more contrasting elements, and a generally deeper visual field. The slight golden tint makes for a stylized and somewhat unrealistic look, but there are times when textures appear touchable, and wardrobe elements pop with shocking vibrancy. The close-up details, such as the tiny hairs and goose bumps on Doubleday’s bare back, are certainly a plus, but it’s the wider scope details that really impressed me here. Scenes of characters crossing forest landscapes are especially rich, and the perfect separation of elements found in the busily decorated interior sets stand up against some of the best transfers in my collection. Occasionally the overall grain is a bit inconsistent, and the darkest shots lose a bit of definition to roaming black levels, but I’ve got very little bad to say about this transfer.
Like most films of its type, Youth in Revolt is not going to rouse too much excitement for its aural treatments, but this unassuming DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track completes a few important jobs. The softly spoken dialogue is presented cleanly, and stands apart from Cera’s ongoing narration, which features a wider channel spread, and more bass support. The overall sound effects work is simple and secondary, and these noised rarely overtake the dialogue or seep too far into the background. The effects only stand up to rock the system during the two big car crash scenes. The big blow-up is a surprising little feat of sound editing, and crescendos with a bassy, aggressive bang that would likely make Michael Bay smile. John Swihart’s original score and an eclectic collection of pop music favourites feature strongly through the front channels, with solid rear and LFE support.
Extras begin with a commentary track featuring director Miguel Arteta and star Michael Cera. The track is expectedly awkward, but reasonably entertaining and informative, including tales of casting, editing, and generally developing the adaptation. My favourite parts of the track are those that pertain to the original book, and the differences between it and the final film. The commentators work well together, and when the conversation starts to thin out they’re good at rebooting each other. Sometimes things default to gleefully loving on the other members of the cast and crew, but there’s very little entirely wasted space. A movieIQ mode augments the information.
Next up are nine deleted and extended scenes (10:50, HD). These are mostly trimmed character moments and minor plot points, none of which are missed in the bigger picture. Unfortunately, these scenes include ‘Jerry’s Heart Attack’, which is another of director Ivan Abel’s glorious stop-motion sequences. Speaking of animated sequences, the next extra is a selection of five deleted and extended animation sequences (07:10, HD), including a longer version of the opening credits, a mutating phone, which can be found in the deleted scenes, an extended version of the dancing sexual position scene, a longer version of the road trip scene, and extended final credits. Very nice stuff, though not quite as ‘extended’ as I might have liked. The extras are completed with audition footage from Doubleday, Zach Galifianakis, Erik Knudsen, Jonathan B. Wright, and Adhir Kalyan (all in SD), and a series of trailers for other Sony releases.
Youth in Revolt deserved better than it got upon release, and I’m rooting for its home video success. It’s not without its shortcomings, and definitely will not stimulate every viewer’s taste, but I can easily picture the film developing a modest and deserved cult following. Even the viewers rightfully sick of Michael Cera’s shtick might want to give this one a chance. The disc looks better than the bulk of its type, and the DTS-HD soundtrack features a few satisfying aural treats. The extras are too short and thin, but the audio commentary and deleted/extended scenes don’t disappoint.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 15th June 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Director and Star Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Off-The-Chain Deleted and Extended Animated Sequences, Audition Footage
Easter Egg: No
Director: Miguel Arteta
Cast: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Mary Kay Place, Justin Long, Fred Willard, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, Zack Galifianakis
Length: 90 minutes
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