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'Youth in Revolt' and navigating the rom-com world if you're a young male actor

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Over on our Movie Critics blog, Lisa Schwarzbaum is pondering Michael Cera’s future: How he’ll go from someone who, in her words, knows how to “convey hormonal frenzy and accompanying romantic confusion as well as he does, just by standing still and speaking in a soft, clear voice,” to someone who’s tasked with playing a man in his 20s who’s “Done It” and has to find the humor in sustaining a relationship.

When I watched his new film Youth in Revolt, an R-rated male-driven romantic comedy at heart, the question that popped into my mind was would I rather keep seeing Cera play the same kind of closeted-cool virgin over and over again, or get cast as the love interest in a traditional rom-com? Were those my only two options — and with films like (500) Days of Summer out there, they shouldn’t be — I’d prefer he keep wearing his hoodie. (So would, I dare say, the college-aged crowd that applauded at the end of my opening night showing.) In those roles, he’s at least a fully fleshed-out character. They might be a cliché at this point, too — “the Michael Cera type” — but at least you get to know them. In most female-driven rom-coms, the man is known only as the trophy.

What do you think? As a young male actor without Taylor Lautner’s biceps or Robert Pattinson’s hair but with swoon-worthy comedic timing, is it better to star in films like Youth in Revolt where you get to open with a masturbation scene, talk about how the world would be a better place if radio stations played Frank Sinatra’s “My One and Only Love” once an hour (a nice idea, but I’d go with John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman’s), and play both lonely good guy Nick and badass François, the Gallic alter ego Nick creates to do the bad things he needs to do, like arson, to get close to the Francophile he falls for on vacation? Bonus: You’d also get to pretend you’ve taken mushrooms with Fred Willard, and act out a hallucination with humping figures from a book of sexual positions. Or should you be in a comedy that only required you to watch a young, likable starlet do a pratfall?

P.S. Before anyone says EW.com hates rom-coms, know that you can point out a genre’s clichés (read Karen Valby’s excellent take on Amy Adams’ new film Leap Year) and still enjoy it.

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