The rock group Oingo Boingo once posed a deep question in a silly song called "Who Do You Want to Be." Essentially a laundry list of possibilities - tough guy, tortured artist, fashion star - it neatly summed up the years-long personality disorder known as adolescence.
It could almost be the theme song to the teen comedy "Youth in Revolt," though its hero, Nick Twisp (Michael Cera), prefers Sinatra to rock, foreign cinema to MTV. Intelligent, sensitive and kind, Nick is discovering that none of that matters to the girls at his school.
Enter Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), a trailer-park beauty with an improbable fondness for Godard and Gainsbourg. She talks a better Lolita than she gives - things stop with a kiss - but Nick is smitten. There's only one catch: her boyfriend, Trent, a writer of "futurist percussive poetry."
That's tough competition, so Nick invents a bold alter ego, Francois Dillinger (also Cera), complete with ascot, pencil-
mustache and ever-present Gauloises. Francois can do things Nick can't, like steal cars, act out and tell Sheeni precisely, and floridly, what he desires.
Based on the novel by C.D. Payne and unevenly directed by Miguel Arteta ("The Good Girl"), "Youth in Revolt" is almost as confused as its characters. Nick and Francois seem like counterparts, not opposites; Sheeni's personality remains murky; and the supposedly artsy Trent (Jonathan Bradford Wright) turns out to be a turtlenecked blue blood - a whole different kind of nemesis.
Cera and Doubleday can be charming, and the movie's sweetness comes through, despite the inconsistencies. Still, "Youth in Revolt" could have used more adult supervision.