Michael Cera, old soul

Just because I think Youth in Revolt is less than daisy fresh as a coming-of-age story doesn’t mean I don’t dig the unique comedic talents of the movie’s star, Michael Cera. And in thinking about what makes Cera so arresting a screen presence, I keep coming back to the notion of contradiction: He looks so young (he is so young) and vulnerably, virginally mid-chrysalis, with that pale skinny bod and cute chickpea head. Yet Cera possesses the expert comic timing and physical stillness of a man of experience. And certainly of a seasoned character actor. Very few young performers know 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; even fewer know how to demonstrate what’s simultaneously funny and tender about such male emotional disarray.

Cera’s got that going on. The challenge, should he care to rise to it as he enters his 20s, is how to play guys who are no longer stuck pining for young women – they’ve Done It – but now face the (inevitably hilarious) challenges of sustaining relationships with chicks.

Your turn: Do you like the species known as Michael Cera Dude?

Image credits: Doane Gregory (l); Bruce Birmelin

Comments (77 total) Add your comment
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  • lefty

    “…so arresting a screen presence.” I see what you did there…and I like it! :)

    • Lisa Schwarzbaum

      Thanks Lefty, that’s why I love EW.com readers.

      • Porky Romano

        “chickpea head”, also a nice touch. IMHO, I’d like to see Cera take on Jack Ryan. The franchise needs a jump start and Cera is the perfect choice to make that happen.

    • Terrence Callahan

      An arresting screen presence? Unique comedic talents? Expert comic talent? Wow…how much did Cera pay Lisa? The kid has just one expresion, and exactly one character that he plays in every film, he has no charisma to speak of, and he possesses absolutely no range. Wow, I underestimates the love for Arrested Development, because seriously, the fact that he was OK in a beloved (by a very small niche audience) TV show, doesn’t mean that we are going to blind ourselves to his obvious lack of screen presence and talent.

      Sorry, the guy is one-note and dull as a “movie star”, and he isn’t that good an actor to have any future as a character thespian.

      • alex

        he didn’t pay her anything because she wrote a weird and negative review of youth in revolt (which it seems a lot of commenters really liked so i don’t believe her).

      • Cole9219

        Arrested Development doesn’t have a SMALL fanbase. Everyone I show it to loves it. And Michael Cera is a great comedic actor (besides in Year One and Nick & Norah).

      • sid

        Character thespian? That’s obnoxious. He’s very funny.

      • shortpeopledate

        Such a classy guy and good actor

      • Telly B

        “ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT doesn’t have a small fanbase”

        Right. That’s why it’s still playing to incredibly large audiences. That’s why it was never canceled over tepid ratings…Oh, wait…

        “Cera is a great comedic actor”

        I know…
        All great comedic actors play only one role in their lifetime, in the same monotone, dull way and with absolutely no variation of tone,nuance, or detail.

      • MrNiceGuy

        Agree Terrence. This no-talent has all the chops of the other no-talent guy in Napoleon Dynamite. What’s his name again? Completely forgettable. Blah.

      • tahn

        Yeah, Michael Cera is not really a talented actor. And yes, he only plays exactly one role: the awkward, coming of age kid who has problems with girls.
        Can he play any other role? Probably not. Which is why he is going to fade into obscurity when people get sick of seeing him as the same character in every film.
        If you want to talk about true actors, you need to talk about someone with the ability to portray multiple characters and convince the audience that they could be real. Johnny Depp? Denzel? These are real actors.

  • Celia

    Lmao @ “…cute chickpea head.”

    I think he gets hotter as he gets older and he’s definitely wise beyond his years. He does have a tendency to go for the same kind of role, but he still brings something new to it. He’s so subtle and that’s why he’s awesome. I think he has a long career ahead of him.

  • Ambient Lite

    I think he’s going to need to duck out of the spotlight for a few years and age a bit…like wine…or cheese.

  • Matt

    Eh. I liked him initially in Arrested Development, but shouldn’t this pony have more than one trick…??

    • Mike

      Michael Cera is unbearable… “look at me I’m awkward” shut up and get off my movie screen. The movie was alright though due to funny cameos.

  • GoMe!

    I think he’s great (one of my favorite actors…although Year One was bleh!) but I would love to see him in older roles. I think it would be interesting see him play an older man, but with his usual nervous-like, soft personality like most of his other characters. Yeah…I’d like to see that…btw, I hope this all made sense!

  • Monique

    For his sake, I hope he receives more diverse roles and showcase a wider variety of characters. Then again, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with nailing the same character over and over again. Sure he’ll be too old for the whole virginal, teen boy act; but I can still see him as an older version of what he is now – mainly sweet, awkward, self-depricating and funny. If he’s one of the best at nailing this image, then he should keep doing it. I think Jack Black, in general, has been more of the same in every single movie he’s been in, and he’s pretty successfuly and laughing all the way to the bank.

    • Shhhh

      Look at Steve Carell’s character on the office. I think that role could be played by an older Cera. Pulling off that type of (older teen boy trying to be cool) role takes some skill

      • tahn

        Steve Carell in the Office? Really? Michael Cera in that role? Michael Cera is too timid and soft spoken for a role like that.
        I would stop watching the Office is someone like Michael Cera was in it.

  • Jess

    He plays exactly one character – himself. Zero range, limited talent.

    • tundraaim

      So does George Clooney. His characters in ‘Michael Clayton and ‘Up and the Air’ are basically the same. They even dress alike.

  • Taylor

    Michael Cera has played the same character in every single one of his movies.

    I haven’t seen Arrested Development, so I can’t comment on that.

  • Gangie

    Michael Cera is a rare find, those who think he’s a one-trick pony don’t understand or appreciate his acting style. And Year One was hilarious!

    • Stacie

      “Sit tight Mama, Daddy’s gotta fight” still makes me laugh.

  • Celia

    His character in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is completely different from the one he plays in Juno and the one in Superbad.
    He has range. It’s just subtle and he’s getting type cast as weird teenagers right now, but I think he break that mold.

    • Ambient Lite

      I have to disagree with you there. Though I did think Nick and Norah’s was a cute movie, I didn’t see a remarkable difference between him in that, and him in everything else. I always like his movies, but I don’t see that range. I think he’ll need to mature a bit before we see him differently.

      • Cole9219

        Well put, Ambient Lite. Michael Cera may have only one basic roll, but he’s good at it and why not enjoy it now. When he gets older maybe he’ll show some more significant changes in his characters.

  • Trace

    I disagree with Jess. Gossip mill says he is a major screaming diva IRL. So this chick pea head innocence is in fact great acting. He just needs more varied roles. Perhaps the demanding diva will be crafty enough to find them and navigate that path.

    • Whatever

      Because anything with the word “Gossip” in it is such a reference to quote.

    • Michael Ellis

      I think Trace is confusing “gossip” with a very funny extra on the Superbad DVD called “Everyone hates Michael.”

  • @ImStillToni

    I love George Michael! I think he is an extremely talented actor with an almost arresting comedic timing! *wink @ Lisa* I thought Year One was the closest thing he’s ever done to AD (and just as hilarious), but I can see why some folks do think all of his roles are the same – the characters may show similiarities but I think Cera nails it every time. And watching him get “Nu Joisied” last night and not even burst out laughing once the entire time took a HUGE amount of restraint (and my respect)! All I can hope for is that he starts expanding his character age & range or he will forever be pigeonholed – but I would see any Cera film at least once. I love his “schtick” so to speak – it makes him hiliariously unique and makes me want to see him working even more. Not many young actors have that affect and certainly not always for comedy.

  • ben

    I’m bothered by Michael Cera’s detractors, who claim he can only play one note. I don’t see nearly as much hate towards Bill Murray, or Rodney Dangerfield, or numerous other actors who have found what they’re good at and then usually stick to it. Not every actor needs to be Meryl Streep or Robert De Niro.

    • sid

      Thank you. Cary Grant had a pretty solid persona. It does not negate talent.

      • tundraaim

        Also, Bette Davis, Jimmy Stewart, Marilyn Monroe, and Woody Allen

  • Jonathan

    Michael Cera, how could ya NOT like him, but regardless, if you read the book, you WILL go see the movie!

  • allison

    I said this on Phillyist and I’ll say it here – He’s basically a funny puppy. What’s not to love?

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