Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) is an oddball adolescent living in Oakland, California. He has very strange tastes for his age: the music of Frank Sinatra and the movies of Federico Fellini. He pictures himself as a true romantic soul. The quest before him is explained in one of his voice-overs: "The issue can no longer be ignored: I'm still a virgin. To be honest, I have never even kissed a woman to whom I was not related by blood or marriage." He and his nerdy friend Lefty (Erik Knudsen) are obsessed with sex, and it doesn't help that Nick's promiscuous single parent mother (Jean Smart) is dating a schmuck (Zach Galifianakis) and his horny divorced dad (Steve Buscemi) is living with a voluptuous young woman (Ari Graynor). Nick wonders whether the deck is stacked against him with all this sex going on around him.
But then he meets Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), and it is love at first sight. She's a loner and a nonconformist just like him. Sheeni's rebelliousness extends to her home where her over-protective father and mother (M. Emmet Walsh and Mary Kay Place) are born-again Christians with a conservative streak. Her brother (Justin Long) has a thing for psychedelic mushrooms and finds pleasure in secretly serving them to unsuspecting souls. Sheeni is delighted by Nick's devotion. But he really loses his cool when he learns that she is dating Trent (Jonathan B. Wright), a multi-talented achiever. Sheeni tells Nick that she wants him to be more aggressive and assertive.
Nick vows to remake himself in order to win Sheeni's heart. He comes up with an alter ego, Francois Dillinger (she loves all things French), a cigarette-smoking tough guy who takes him on an adventuresome walk on the wild side that involves breaking the law and causing large public disturbances. Along the way, he squares off with Lance Wescott (Ray Liotta), a cop who is his mother's latest lover. He also visits a private school where Sheeni has been sent by her parents to get her away from him.
Youth in Revolt is directed by Michael Arteta with a screenplay by Gustin Nash based on the novel Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp by C.D. Payne. The film features an impressive mix of rock selections and some quirky animated sequences which serve as interludes. The director has drawn out spunky performances from Michael Cera, who keeps us rooting for Nick all the way, and Portia Doubleday, who convincingly conveys the seductiveness and mysteriousness of Sheeni. Although many in our contentious culture disparage what they call the "puppy love" of adolescence, others offer a spiritual perspective. Here's what Gertrude Mueller Nelson says about it:
"Romantic love is not an aberration, it's the heady stuff that launches ships and makes the world go around. It is a powerful taste of the divine as we experience it in one another. It is also the necessary vision that allows one to be crazy and daring enough to make a commitment."
So relax and enjoy the comic misadventures of Nick as he goes on his quest to lose his virginity and find true love. Don't worry about the roadblocks he faces and don't let the waywardness of his journey bother you. It's not easy to stay on track when you're head-over-heels in love!
Or consider The Rules of Love written by Andreas Capellanus in 1185, during the apex of the most chivalrous period of European history. Despite its extreme nature, this treatise was adopted by many as a code of courtly behavior befitting any would-be lover. It also applies to Nick and all other youthful questers:
• He who does not feel jealousy is incapable of love.
• It is unseemly to love anyone whom you would be ashamed to marry.
• A true lover only desires the passionate embraces of his beloved.
• Love easily attained is of little value; difficulty in obtaining it makes it precious.
• Every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of his lover.
• On suddenly catching sight of the beloved, the heart begins to palpitate.
• A man in love is always fearful.
• Everything a lover does ends in the thought of the beloved.
• Love can deny nothing to love.
• A true lover is continually, without interruption, obsessed by the image of his beloved.
Special features on the DVD include deleted scenes; Off-the-Chain deleted and extended animated sequences; audition footage; and a commentary with director Miguel Areta and actor Michael Cera.