The average (sex) teenaged boy thinks (sex) about sex (sex) every seven seconds (sex). While this might be an old wives’ tale, you wouldn’t know it from Youth in Revolt. It’s a quintessential coming of age story revolving around sex, sex and even more sex.
Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) is an awkward teen who dreams of beautiful women and his insecure charm somehow makes him irresistible. Hard to imagine Cera in this role, right? When the boyfriend (The Hangover‘s Zach Galifianakis) of Nick’s mom (Jean Smart) pisses off some sailors, they head for RV land, where Nick falls for the princess in the park, Sheeni (Portia Doubleday). In an effort to combat his good-boy imagine, Nick creates a French alter-ego, Francois Dillinger. Sporting tight white pants, loafers with no socks, a thin mustache and the ever-present cigarette, Cera really walks the European gay line.
Director Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl) manages to pull together a charming movie out of the books written by C.D. Payne. Part Road Trip and part Sybil (with a hefty helping of American Pie), Nick and Francois really step in it in their attempt to get in it.
Most the movie relies on Cera being his usual character from Arrested Development, Juno, Superbad, Nick and Norah’s… you get the picture. At least when he’s playing Francois he gets to embrace his inner-juvenile delinquent. It’s a nice, albeit brief, reprieve from Cera’s ah-shucks mumbling, but eventually even Nick’s fumbling lessens as the film matures. It’s a glimmer that Cera isn’t one note.
The supporting cast of characters is especially rich, making Youth in Revolt fun in unexpected ways. Galifianakis is much more subdued than he was in The Hangover, but still has perfect timing. Smart is wonderfully trashy as Nick’s mom, and Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard and Justin Long are all priceless.
As endearing as Youth in Revolt ultimately is, it’s still just a trailer-park sex story about misbehaving teens and adults with no parental skills. Much of the humor is your basic, garden variety dick and sex jokes, but occasionally a line or situation is too frickin’ funny not to laugh out loud. And it’s downright adorable to see the extremes that a boy will go to in order to win the heart of the girl he loves. (sex)
Crazy Heart could also be known as The Wrestler: The Musical. In it, a washed up has-been tries to piece together a life out of a once-successful career while fighting addiction, trying to reconcile with an estranged child, and wooing a younger woman. But whereas Mickey Rourke played a wrestler, Jeff Bridges plays singer-songwriter Bad Blake and provides a soundtrack to his misery. Fittingly, his music is the music of pain: country.
Based on Thomas Cobb’s novel from 1987 and adapted and directed by Scott Cooper, Crazy Heart is something of a wet dream for those in a midlife crisis. Because even as Bad is sinking fast, he’s having an affair with a much younger woman, music writer Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal). It’s the type of plot that usually only exists in, well, a country song. And when that is stretched out over nearly two hours, it leaves too much time to spot the holes.
The role of Bad is tailor-made for awards consideration. That’s not to say that Bridges doesn’t do an excellent job in the role — he does. But anytime you have an out-of-shape man puking his guts into a toilet while wearing only tightie-whities the buzz is inevitable. Performing the songs and taking Bad from low to lower, Bridges is convincing and fearless in his performance. Rourke had the physicality from the wrestling matches on his side; Bridges only has his guitar and rather than hide behind it he uses it as a magnifying glass into Bad’s life.
Gyllenhaal’s performance as the reporter looking for the ultimate scoop is strong, but the film’s greatest faltering centers on her character. Jean is immediately smitten by Bad, which is not outside the realm of possibility when a fan meets a star. But her crying jag so soon after meeting Bad about how much she’s going to miss him makes her whole character sort of pathetic. It just feels like Hollywood’s obsession with pairing old men and young women taken to the extreme.
Naturally there’s a soundtrack of country music running in the background of the entire film, so die-hard country haters are going to cringe, but T-Bone Burnett’s music, co-written with the later Stephen Bruton, is fantastic. Surprisingly strong performances by the stars do the songs justice and give the film an air of authenticity.
Crazy Heart has a very slight glimmer of hope. Even when most pathetic, Bad is never past the point of no return. There’s an old joke, ”What happens when you play a country song backward?” The snarky answer being, ”You get your wife back, your horse back, and your trailer back.” While Bad has no choice but to live life forward, he manages to hold out hope that there might be a next track on the album that’s going to be a little bit better.