Making the Grades
With such a lofty title, one may wonder what has motivated the youth in this movie to revolt? Environmental issues? Starvation in the Third World? The rising price of music on iTunes?
Wrong on all counts. The reason behind 16-year-old Nick Twisp’s (Michael Cera) sudden change from being a reasonably nice kid to juvenile delinquent is that he is still a (gasp!) virgin. And if he doesn’t fix this problem before the end of high school, he’s convinced he’s a failure.
One morning, after another round of masturbation, he determines it’s time to change his life. Fortunately a free ride out of town is coming after his mother’s (Jean Smart) boyfriend Jerry (Zach Galifianakis) has to run from a group of Marines to whom he sold a lemon of a car. Arriving at Jerry’s country trailer, Nick meets one of the neighbors. Sheeni (Portia Doubleday) is another stressed out young girl who has everything she can do to tolerate her fanatically religious parents. In short order the hormone-saturated pair are swabbing each other with sun block on the beach and discussing sexual needs.
Sheeni’s family aside, it looks like Nick may finally solve his problem—until Jerry decides to return “home” and Nick must follow. Yet with the obsessive lust between these kids, either is willing to do anything to be together again. The pair manages to get Nick’s estranged father (Steve Buscemi) a job near Sheeni’s residence. Now the only thing left to figure out is how to get Nick kicked out of his house so he is forced to live with his Dad. That won’t be easy, because his mother depends on support payments for their income.
With Sheeni’s suggesting Nick learn to be “bad, real bad,” the teen hatches an alter ego—Francois (also played by Cera). Possibly the most creative element in the movie (and the first time we see Cera play a role other than the typecast one we’ve seen in all his other movies, such as Juno and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Play List), the cigarette smoking French dude helps Nick find his bad self. That begins with stealing Jerry’s car and trailer, along with a few extra gallons of gas in the back seat, and deliberately smashing the vehicles into a coffee shop causing a multi-million dollar blaze. While Nick manages to get away from the scene, the law is on his tail.
Although the hot situation does get the youth moved to his father’s home, Sheeni’s parents unexpectedly make arrangements to have their daughter attend a boarding school far away. Undeterred, Nick and a friend travel in a stolen car to Sheeni’s dorm and stay overnight with her and her roommate. The outcome is lots of sex for Nick’s buddy—but nothing for the sad virgin. Ever persistent, Nick hatches another plan to get Sheeni expelled (which involves having a fellow student secretly give her sleeping drugs).
If you are expecting a conclusion that somehow redeems this morally bankrupt little script, you are wrong again. Nick is found by the police, but his girl assures him that at the tender age of sixteen, the most he can expect for his crimes is three months in “juvi”. As for Nick’s original “problem,” lets just say he manages to reach his goal before the law comes pounding on the door.
Nor are the constant lying, stealing, arson, promiscuous behavior and message of only having to face a three-month-long consequence the total of the content concerns within this movie. It also includes extensive scenes of illegal drug use by teens and adults, frequent profanities and multiple uses of a sexual expletive.
These elements alone give Youth In Revolt a much-deserved R-rating in the United States, which begs the question: “Why make an R-rated film about teens that teens aren’t supposed to be able to see?” Whether or not the target audience lies their way into the theater, it’s a sure bet this epic will release to the home video market in an “unrated” version where adolescents will have ready access to it.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Youth In Revolt.
What consequences are not found in this movie? Some areas to consider include damages resulting from crimes, personal relationships marred by impulsive decisions, drug dependencies and the possible ramifications of casual sex. Why is it so tempting for filmmakers to ignore these when making a movie like this? What age group will likely find this movie most appealing?