Synopsis: A teen goes on a quest to lose his virginity.
Release Date: January 8, 2010 MPAA Rating: PG-13
“In movies, the good guys get the girls; in real life its usually the pricks,” Nick candidly observes in his opening voice over. Without much more warning, we are thrust into a hyper-sexualized coming of age tale that revolves around the life of Nick Twisp (Michael Cera). Nick is basically a 50 year-old man stuck in the body of a 17 year-old boy, which would be fine if he didn’t have to deal with all the damn hormones. With his love for old movies, chivalry, and following rules, the character Nick comes off as almost anachronistic. All of this changes the second he meets Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday) and falls hopelessly in love. He decides that he will do anything to be what she wants him to be. This includes but is not limited to creating a bad-ass alter ego– Francois Dillinger, spilling his cereal on purpose, wrecking both of his parent’s cars, almost burning down the city of Berkeley, and faking his own death. Strangely enough, rather than a loss of innocence, the third act of this film introduces the idea of a return to innocence which I found to be extremely refreshing. In the end, Twisp gets his Dillingeresque ending and realizes that he only had to overcome his misperceptions of himself to get the girl. Francois disappears and Nick reemerges because Nick was always enough. In the end, the film is honest, frustratingly unstable, and attempts to think beyond certain genre expectations.
The main issue this film had was that it had neither consistency nor focus. The film is basically broken up into three parts, each with vastly different sets of priorities and goals, which ultimately made the world of the film very unstable. It also seemed as if there were so many ideas they wanted to fit in that they crammed three separate movies into one. The first part presents itself as a sweet coming of age tale in which Twisp experiences the pure bliss of having someone love you in return. Then the tone changes completely and Nick’s goal becomes getting kicked out of his house. This second part is reckless and replete with drugs, a new school, bad decisions, unreasonable back stories, and a surprisingly clean cut alter ego. The alter ego, Francois, is what Nick imagines is the bad-ass French man of Sheeni’s dreams. He is Nick’s sole guide on this quest to being bad to the proverbial bone. Sometimes it is unclear what role Francois was meant to play because at times he is able to take action and assert his “badness” whenever he sees fit, but at others, he can only exist passively. The third act consists of sexual awakening and self discovery and Nick’s goal is not only to evade the law but also to win Sheeni back and lose his virginity. Although we finally return to the trailer park, a setting that is more familiar and stable, all the secondary characters have changed and the storyline becomes unnecessarily confusing. Finally, Nick’s run in with the law loses it’s severity after his deflowering and oddly enough, the film is able to coherently (if not forcefully) tie the movie back together with a return to innocence.
I was pleasantly surprised that Michael Cera showed a considerable amount of range in his portrayal of Nick Twisp and his alter ego Francois. His delivery of the dialogue is often what makes a scene engaging. Even if the plot is at times uninteresting, Cera did a great job of creating naive moments that were captivating. Cera plays Nick just pathetic enough to be likable and Francois just bad enough to be taken seriously (but not too seriously) and this keeps the movie light-hearted and believable. It was interesting to see Cera playing with the subtleties of each character but it may have been better if the role of Francois was more clearly demarcated. Portia Doubleday’s portrayal of Sheeni, however, was rather disappointing. The character of Sheeni had almost no depth and the delivery of her lines were stilted and wooden. In playing opposite Cera, who has an elusive charismatic quality, she definitely falls flat.
There were many things in this movie that should have been extremely funny: Michael Cera cross dresses, Justin Long’s character drugs Sheeni’s extremely religious parents, and Nick Twisp banters incessantly with his mustached alter ego whenever he fails to really be bad. However, I found that the pacing was never quite right and the supporting characters were uninteresting. Most of the laughs come from Michael Cera’s, now mass-produced, brand of dry humor rather than the physical and situational comedy surrounding it.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Miguel Arteta
- Producer(s): Gustin NashMichael Cera (Nick Twisp and Francois Dillinger)
- Screenwriter(s): Portia Doubleday (Sheeni Saunders)Jean Smart (Estelle Twisp)Zack Galifianakis (Jerry)
- Story: Steve Buschemi (George Twisp)
- Cast: Ray Liotta (Lance Wescott)Justin Long (Paul Saunders) Andy KeirPamela MartinChuy ChavezTony Fanning
- Editor(s): Nancy Steiner
- Cinematographer: John Swihart
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA