This movie kind of charmed me and got on my nerves at the same time. But while the ratio was tipped toward the latter at first, as the movie progressed it got steadily more creative, energetic and interesting, and as a consequence I think I have more good things to say about it then bad. There are a lot of usings of the word pretentious in regards to this movie and I'm not really going to argue with that. Teenage characters idolize the French New Wave, animated sequences appear entirely superfluously and it uses long, thesaurus worthy words in casual conversation and not in a relatable Tarantino kind of way. But maybe its because I can make peace with pretentious above many other failings, or maybe because this its a confidently executed, often hilarious movie that is a teen comedy with almost an overflow of ideas, I don't think I've ever said that before, that for me was good enough to overcome indie familiarity.
The film follows virginal teen Michael Cera attempting to woo the awesomely named actress Portia Doubleday in increasingly unhinged and sociopathic ways. That's pretty much all the plot on offer, and there's some solid support from a variety of famous names and strong character actors. Zach Galifinakis, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, Jean Smart and Fred Willard turn in nice supporting performances. Justin Long is OK playing a stoner brother, but the character feels a little stock for this kind of thing and serves no real purpose to it. Doubleday, as much as this movie wouldn't like you to think, is pretty much your stock manic pixie dream girl (A movie blogger term to mean ridiculously perfect and rut-busting object of desire). That's all the movie tells us about her and almost all that matters.
So, to the Cera issue. There has been a backlash against him, saying that he's a little one-note and plays the same character in everything. I wasn't disagreeing. He created a schtick far too specific and over-used, but he has worn some of my cynicism away in this movie. The kid can act, and at times here, delivers a really excellent performance. Only at times mind you. The central Nick character is Cera stock and trade, and for the first half hour he was just doing what he always did, but once the alter-ego Francois was introduced (don't ask) Cera did something he'd never done before. He played confidence! It was crazy. Even crazier, he found a new lease of life as Francois, showing range and even talent beyond what we are familiar with, and if all's fair his work in Youth and Revolt should buy him back a fair amount of support. After this I've gone from believing him to be a flavor of the month to someone I could see being around for a while.
I enjoyed the writing, but I can see why people would not. Is very written, and there's an elitism amongst the creativity, but the very fact that its central point that young love is in fact ridiculous in its very nature is for me a subtly cynical approach to romance. Its not a masterpiece, but it is constantly trying to be something and the energy more then compensates for the occasional cheap joke or misfiring logic. Director Miguel Arteta also gives a great account of himself and despite mediocre work prior to this film, he's found a verve of some sort here. A flawed but funny in its design, a relatively unique teen movie worth seeing.