Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fiction to Film - Youth in Revolt

The Fiction
Author: C. D Payne
Publisher: Broadway Books, 1996
Length: 516 pages

From Goodreads: Youth in Revolt is the journals of Nick Twisp, California's most precocious diarist, whose ongoing struggles to make sense out of high school, deal with his divorced parents, and lose his virginity result in his transformation from an unassuming fourteen-year-old to a modern youth in open revolt. As his family splinters, worlds collide, and the police block all routes out of town, Nick must cope with economic deprivation, homelessness, the gulag of the public schools, a competitive type-A father, murderous canines, and an inconvenient hair trigger on his erectile response–all while vying ardently for the affections of the beauteous Sheeni Saunders, teenage goddess and ultimate intellectual goad

I originally bought Youth in Revolt because I heard about the upcoming film and wanted to have read the book before seeing it. I had a mixed response to the novel. Most of the parts I didn't connect with/liked about Youth in Revolt (the continous references to thunderous erections, masturbation techniques and generally discussing women as sex objects or dogs) were probably because I'm not a precocious teenage boy. Nick Twisp is, however, a surprisingly likeable character (well, I slowly warmed to him) and his exploits, based solely on the desire to copulate with one Sheeni Saunders, are quite amusing (albeit completely over the top).

The Film
Director: Miguel Arteta
Screenwriter: Gustin Nash
Studio: Dimension Films
Release Date: January 2010
Cast: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Steve Buscemi

I was quite surprised that the film was made by a studio. It would have been a difficult and challenging novel to adapt for a mainstream, commercial audience (it definitely had more potential for cult status as an independent film). In their favour, however, Dimension took the strongest plotline and ran with it, and it worked on screen.

For me, the biggest reason this film worked was the use of Francois. In the novel, Francois is used quite briefly (Francois is Nick's imagined alter-ego - Francois being the name predicted by Sheeni's of her future husband). On screen, Francois is bought to life and gets some of the film's best jokes (for me, hearing Michael Cera talk dirty was hilarious in itself). Francois is everything Nick is not - sweet-talking, seductive and very, very bad.  

Despite my mixed feelings about the novel, I did enjoy watching the film. It's definitely a difficult story to compress - originally set in three distinct sections - and Gustin Nash seems to strike a successful balance of hormones and humour with is screenplay adaptation. I found that the streamlined narrative allows for greater character development (giving the very talented cast some moments to highlight their comedic skills).

I'm a sucker for creative opening credits and Arteta did not disappoint. I loved use of claymation!

As usual there are more movie stills and some further discussion under the cut.

Francois Dillinger is, in my opinion, the stand-out character. I found him far more entertaining than Nick (who is basically the archetypcal Michael Cera role).
I love little details like these - it reminds me of the mix CD art in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.
Oh Johnny B. Wright! I adore him - I think he's such an underrated performer. He is perfectection as Nick's nemesis (and Sheeni's boyfriend) Trent. So smarmy and yet so charming. And the jawline. Ok, I'll be quiet now.

All of the supporting cast were really good (I was especially fond of Justin Long as the psychedelic Paul Saunders). Also, randomly by my count, Ari Graynor has featured in three of my Fiction to Film posts - which is kind of awesome though as I love her.

I have commend Portia Doubleday as she actually made Sheeni Saunders bearable. One of the reasons I wasn't so into the novel was because of a lack of decent female characters. Sheeni is so pretentious and faux-intellectual and obnoxious, it irritated me like crazy. Portia  is able to capture a toned-down version of this which works on-screen, and makes Sheeni far more tolerable.

Here's just a few more fun shots:

I did miss Carlotta! Even though it's quite a bizarre and totally far-fetched plotline in the novel, it's quite funny. I can understand, however, that it wouldn't work on-screen for signficant period of time - so I'm glad they were able to incorporate it.

Yay, cute credits again! The film's ending is also quite different to the novel, but it works for the film audience. It's a bit sad that Youth in Revolt didn't receive a widespread release, but it is definitely a more challenging film to market than your average teen comedy.

Have you read or seen Youth in Revolt?
I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Aimee said...

Hmmm, after seeing YIR a couple of weeks ago I was really keen to read the books, but now I'm not so sure...

Did love the movie though. (Although I'm one of those people who loves Michael Cera because he plays the same character in every movie, not in spite of it, so obv. my judgement is not always to be trusted.) Agree that Francois was a comedic highlight, just the sight of those high-wasited white slacks makes me laugh!

Girl Friday said...

For me personally, the book was a bit much and I felt like the film captured the essence of the story anyway and used the best plotlines.

I'm also quite fond of Michael Cera and thought he did a great job as Nick (and Francois). My favourite part is the Francois voice (and as I said, hearing Michael Cera say some of those things with a deep voice and a straight face gave me the giggles!)

Jess said...

A combination of words I never thought would be the reason to make me want to see a movie: "hearing Michael Cera talk dirty"


Alex Gartner said...

I am now eighteen, but I read this on a bus trip as a faux-intellectual teenage boy. The mixture of Nick's "scholarly allusions" and explicit sexual jargon had me cracking up.

As I read it again, I realize how ridiculous and over the top it is, but the mindset of a bright teenage boy was captured pretty superbly.

A lot of really good lines are often forgotten!

"Sheeni danced like prewar Paris. I danced like the German Army retreating from Stalingrad."

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