Straight teen male virginity is the crise du coeur for Nick Twisp, as played by Michael Cera (“Paper Heart,” “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”). This fawn-like mumbler can endear as a supporting character, but cannot sustain a star turn in his first try. Twisp is the horny Californian invented by C.D. Payne for a book series that started in 1993 with “Youth In Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp.” Screenwriter Gustin Nash (“Charlie Bartlett”) adapts Payne’s material, and Miguel Arteta (“The Good Girl,” “Chuck and Buck”) directs this knowing, charm-impaired, low-key comedy in Michigan, where he fills in as “Illegal Immigrant #2.” Nick has two significant others. There’s his evil alter ego and id-enabler Francois (Cera with a slight mustache and gauche wardrobe) who goads him into juvenile delinquency. Nick’s acting out gets him into the bed of Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday, with such a movie-ready name). Residing at Restless Axles Trailer Park, she has bigger crushes on her poster of Jean-Paul Belmondo and on blond poet and classmate Trent (Jonathan B. Wright). “In the movies, the good guy gets the girl,” notes Cera in a script flaunting more cineaste quips than craft. For just one of the inane twists in Twisp’s saga, Sheeni’s ultra-strict parents get dosed with psycilocybin mushrooms at Thanksgiving. Buzz about some cute echo of “Fight Club” is off-point. With Jean Smart, Mary Kay Place, M. Emmet Walsh, Vijay Joshi, Zach Galifianakis, Fred Willard, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, Steve Buscemi. 90m. (Bill Stamets)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.