Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 07 January 2010
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
Youth in Revolt
Sounds like a coming of age story, right? When the first scene lets you hear, then observe sixteen-year-old Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) masturbating under the covers of his bed while Old Blue Eyes croons in the background, you are probably going to be correct about a few assumptions.
Just recognizing Cera might be enough. He’s played charming, awkward dorks in the past. He has a knack for sardonic, deadpan quips. You know he will usually or eventually complain about being a virgin. Can a quest for intercourse be far behind? Of course not.
Twisp lives with his tarty, insecure, divorced mom Estelle (Jean Smart) and her unsavory boyfriend Jerry (Zach Galifianakis). His dad, George (Steve Buscemi) is shacked up with twenty-something Lacey (Ari Graynor) and has little time for his son. Best friend Lefty (Erik Knudsen) got the nickname because a certain appendage of his hangs in that direction. Yep, that one.
When Jerry has to flee Oakland because of a bad used car sale, Estelle and Nick accompany him and the trio take off to Ukiah in Northern California, where Nick meets girl-of-his-dreams Sheeni (Portia Doubleday) who shares his pretensions for French films and speaking in dialogue way beyond her years. Her parents, the Saunders (M. Emmett Walsh and Mary Kay Place) are religious fundamentalists.
To Nick’s dismay, Sheeni has a boyfriend, Trent, (Jonathan Bradford Wright) who is tall, handsome, pretentious (that seems to be a mandate here) and perfect. Nick and Sheeni have an innocent summer flirtation after which she retreats to her exclusive French-language immersion boarding school.
Nick pines for her obsessively, prompting the appearance of an alter-ego, Francois Dillinger, who eggs him into mischief and criminal acts all designed to get Sheeni back into his realm. Oh, by the way, Jerry dies suddenly, so that Estelle can take up with a police officer Lance, (Ray Liotta) who clashes with Nick.
Thus begins a series of misadventures that Nick/Francois embarks upon for the sole purpose of getting laid. A car and trailer are stolen and explode in a domino trail of disaster. Nick/Francois orchestrates his father’s move to Ukiah and Sheeni’s expulsion from school so that they can be together.
Kooky neighbor Mr. Ferguson (Fred Willard) rescues Nick/Francois and his pal Vijay (Adhir Kalyan) from an after-hours boarding school romp, and is rewarded with a mushroom trip from Sheeni’s stoner brother (Justin Long). Lots of other events happen along the way, (including Nick appearing in drag) all connected to the relentless dissolution of Nick’s virginity via Francois’s reckless, sometimes criminal suggestions.
Despite these developments, the laughs are inconsistent and uneven. Adults are portrayed as flawed loons with little judgment. Teens speak in a manner more suited to quality assurance engineers. Consequences for damages done to property and reputation are blithely erased by Nick’s juvenile status.
The usually engaging Michael Cera does stretch his range a bit here, but snaps back into form quickly with those familiar gangly mannerisms and halting speech patterns that have become his trademark. His capacity for sweetness carries a quirky charm nonetheless, just not enough to elevate the film out of its snickering, immature premise.
Portia Doubleday is a vacant presence, making it hard to sympathize with Nick’s unrequited passion for her.
Jean Smart, Zach Galifianakis, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard, Ari Graynor, M. Emmett Walsh and Mary Kay Place all have small, unsubstantial roles which serve to form the wallpaper in the bedroom of Nick’s life. They are simply there for Nick to bounce off of and rebel against.
Young actors Erik Knudsen, Jonathan Bradford Wright and Justin Long are reduced to one-note characters, each with their own quirky shtick. Adhir Kalyan fares a bit better as a horny international student who scores before Nick does.
Working from C.D. Payne's popular original novels - there are three in the series - director Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl) inserts animated sequences incorporating stop-motion daily life scenes as well as cartoon-y renditions of sexual positions to punctuate Nick’s journey to consummation. Lacking originality, the script by Gustin Nash (Charlie Bartlett) puts improbable words in the teens’ mouths, and they seem to speak with one voice that says, “I’m affected; that means I’m smart.” See if you agree.
No, I will not make the word “revolt” into an adjective by tacking an “ing” at the end, but I will keep it in mind as a mild protest against films like this, in all of their endless iterations.