This is the role Cera plays in the 3½ of his movies that I’ve seen, and I worry what the mixed message may be doing to his self-image. “In the end she’ll kiss you, Michael, but you'll always be a dork.”
I adored “Juno” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.” (A scene from the latter is seen at left.) “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” is great, too, but flawed, and I need to see more of “Youth in Revolt” before I could give its strangeness an unqualified thumbs up.
This is distinct, my discerning son pointed out, from the pseudo-geeks. These are shy, nerdy, slightly uncomfortable men like Paul Rudd, Ryan Reynolds or Joseph Gordon-Levitt who are just too darn cute not to win her over. (Except in “(500) Days of Summer.”)
And I’m not sure where Seth Rogen’s unattractive crudeness fits in this, but he does end up with Katherine Heigl in “Knocked Up,” doesn’t he?
In any case, the dorky heroes always wind up with the beautiful heroine in the end, despite their lack of outward cool. They win her over because they have some kind of inner greatness – and I’m not talking about Paulie Bleeker’s enormous capacity for orange Tic Tacs. I mean they show the world that they’re genuinely good and faithful and deserving of love.
“You’re, like, the coolest person I’ve ever met, and you don’t even have to try,” Juno Jones tells Paulie. “I try really hard, actually,” he responds, preserving his dorkhood.
The awkward hero, it should not take a professor of Feminist Studies to tell you, is in marked contrast to most female heroines. Women in romantic comedies are almost always gorgeous. The major exceptions are the ugly ducklings who may be awkward at the beginning, but blossom into poised beauties in the end. Lately, it seems, they mostly turn into poised, beautiful Anne Hathaway. (See my follow-up post on this topic.)
The ladies are also genuinely good and deserving of love, by the way.
Here are my capsule reviews of three Michael Cera films:
Juno (2007) Yes, it has a happy ending, but there’s no neat little packaging in this film. It’s a goofy film and its characters come out with lines that no one could think up off the cuff, but there’s a lot of real life messiness in this, from the "are you sure?" repeated pregnancy tests to the pain of childbirth. Ellen Page as Juno is a blessed example of the less-than-gorgeous woman who doesn’t have to go Maxim to wind up with her man. ✰✰✰✰✰
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) I don’t get why this film wasn’t more of a hit. To me, it’s a fabulous meld of gaming, graphic novel and film and it moves so quickly you have to watch more than once to catch all the brilliance and humor. I went back and read the first installment of the “Scott Pilgrim” graphic novel series and was impressed by how the film captured the wackness of that world. I loved Kieran Culkin as Scott’s roomie Wallace and Alison Pill as the angry, sarcastic drummer Kim Pine. ✰✰✰✰✰
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008) - I like this movie a lot, but it’s marred by the most disgusting rechewed gum scene I’m aware of and a few too many standardized elements. There’s the troublesome beautiful drunk girl, the running around trying to find (fill in the blank), and the “I’m with the wrong one” epiphanies. Still, there are flashes of creativity, interesting music and me that warm, familiar feeling of hope that love just might have a chance. ✰✰✰✰