Thursday, January 14, 2010

On Losing Virginity -- Reflections on "Youth in Revolt"

I didn't get my first kiss till I was 16, although it wasn't for lack of trying. I asked the same girl in middle school to be my girlfriend seven times before I finally gave up. Sex was on the brain 24/7, like for many adolescent boys. And the day my dad introduced me to Howard Stern, I was stuck on women forever.

It was as if I were two people: Jeremiah, the everyday guy -- nice, friendly, bittersweet -- and Jeremiah, the crazy, reckless horndog. Adolescence does this to us guys, dividing us against ourselves. Sex has a schizophrenic effect on us, driving us to the brink of clinical insanity.

Youth in Revolt was a flashback to my days in high school, when I pined over girls, fought to lose my virginity, and went unnoticed. It's the story of a loner named Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) who can hardly get a girl to remember his name let alone date him. Nick is rather bohemian for his age -- an avid reader, watcher of foreign cinema (La Strada, anyone? Anyone?), and a would-be novelist. His parents are split and living with new partners who provide evidence that society is not evolving, but devolving.

Then Nick meets Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday) and falls in love. Sheeni's a mystery, though, as all first loves usually are initially, and Nick realizes that the only way he's going to be able to stay with her is by becoming someone else. Enter Francois Dillenger, Nick's bad-boy alter-ego. Francois is everything Nick is not: assertive, laidback, confident, smooth. Oh, and like most id-based split personalities, gets Nick into tons of shit.

Michael Cera really stands out in this movie, the first to really showcase his abilities as a talented young actor. For the last couple years he has been resting on the potential he revealed in the television show Arrested Development, playing the lovelorn, quietly sarcastic George Michael Bluth. Since, he's been essentially playing versions of the same character in Juno, Superbad, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and most recently Year One. In Youth and Revolt, Cera creates two distinct characters in Nick and Francois. Nick is the Michael Cera-type, but Francois is a complete 180-degree turn for the young actor. And what makes his performance so enjoyable is how confident he looks in the role. This movie, despite its limitations, should open the doors for Cera to take more varied parts down the road.

What I liked best about this film, though, besides Cera's performance, was the way in which it approached the classic teen-needs-to-lose-his-virginity story. Losing virginity is one of the major rites of passage -- especially for young men -- and as a result we have a dearth of films about the subject. Porky's, Revenge of the Nerds, American Pie, Sex Drive, Superbad, Adventureland...the list is long. Youth in Revolt is the only one of these that attempts to understand the psychology of the journey -- the pathology of the pursuit of "happiness." Nick is a horny bastard, who's hard-on for Shenni is five-miles long, and it makes him do some remarkably awful things. But that's what being a teenager is about sometimes -- doing remarkably awful things to get laid.

It's nice to be reminded of these things from time-to-time. Of course, I'm not so sure I want to remember -- or brag about -- getting my first kiss at 16.


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed the movie! I've been eagerly anticipating it - and now I'm even more excited to hear that you enjoyed it!

  2. I'm 17 and still haven't got my kiss. I'm getting desperate, desperate enough to just snatch an attractive flirt and kiss her just to get it over with.