Pretentiousness is a universally-loathed quality in the movies, as in life, but in Miguel Arteta's Youth in Revolt, it's fully embraced in the form of 16-year-old hero Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) and his Francophile gal pal, Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday). Their pretensions come from their own personal tastes (he loves Frank Sinatra, she Jean-Paul Belmondo) but they're also the tools with which the teens get what they want out of life – Nick uses his alter ego, Francois Dillinger, to win Sheeni's love, and Sheeni obsesses over running away to Paris as a way out of the rural California trailer park she calls home. Still, their self-serious discussions of Tokyo Story, Serge Gainsbourg, futurist percussive poetry, and Camus made my head ache with hipster overload. I already live in L.A., home of American Apparel and, I'm sure, one of the biggest per-capita consumers of PBR in the nation, and sometimes enough is enough.
But while Nick Twisp and Sheeni Saunders may be the most annoyingly pretentious movie teens in recent memory, they're not alone. Plenty of affected youngsters have come before them (not coincidentally, there was a boom of cinematic pretension in the last ten years, a decade that also saw the rise of the hipster IRL). Check out seven of my favorites, and feel free to tell me how pretentious this list is in the comments below.
Max Fischer, Rushmore (1998)
Fifteen-year-old Max Fischer is Rushmore Academy's worst student, mostly because he's more concerned with arts and leisure activities than studying. But for all of his cultured posturing, Max's preternatural air is also a defense mechanism against the harsh reality that he's just a barber's son, and Ms. Cross would rather date Bill Murray and Luke Wilson.
Enid, Ghost World (2001)
Before there was Juno McGuff, there was Enid (Thora Birch), the cynical, intelligent, and impetuous heroine of Terry Zwigoff's film, based on Dan Clowes' graphic novel. Enid likes to Bollywood dance when she's alone and listen to jazz LPs – only a few steps away from hamburger phones and hipsterspeak – but who can blame her for hating the extroverted, pseudo-bohemian losers of the world?
Matthew, Isabel, and Theo - The Dreamers (2003)
Bernardo Bertolucci's Parisian art flick may be set in 1968, but this trio of teens displays a timeless brand of snootiness: cinephilia. When they're not engaging in almost-incest and playing intellectual games with their American exchange student pal, Michael Pitt, Eva Green and Louis Garrel lounge around their fabulous family digs and wax poetic about the cinema. But let's be honest; this is just my kind of pretension -- legitimate love of the movies – and the scene in which they race through the Louvre to beat the record set in Band of Outsiders still makes me smile.
Walt Berkman, The Squid and the Whale (2005)
As the saying goes, like father, like son – and Walt Berkman's dad (Jeff Daniels) is a pretentious academic of the highest order. So it's no wonder that some of that superiority rubs off on Walt (Jesse Eisenberg, an actor who has this character type down to a T) when his parents announce they're divorcing and he decides to side with his condescending father. Walt questions everyone's authority but his dad's, until he starts figuring out that divorce is a two-way street.
Juno MacGuff, Juno (2007)
Say what you will about the Codyspeak in Jason Reitman's Oscar-winning film; I maintain that the hipsterisms and mature countenance of moviedom's most sarcastic pregnant teen is a deliberate tool to convey Juno's desire to be grown up, already. When her accelerated adulthood finally arrives at the end of her nine-month pregnancy, Juno may still love her indie bands and pop culture references, but she no longer needs to prove herself as Minnesota's coolest home skillet.
Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
You win a few podraces as a kid, and you think you can do anything. By the time former slave child Anakin Skywalker grows up and joins the Jedi in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, his cocksure attitude and impatience with learning is starting to get him into hot water. Listening to Palpatine's flattery doesn't help his growing ego, either. That kind of overconfident vanity is what gets people killed and arms cut off, kid. Fast forward a couple of decades and you're huffing and puffing in a head-to-toe black metal number with an anger management problem.
**I know, I know. Some say Anakin's 20 years old in Episode II, but others do the math and say he's 19, so we're going with that.
Jenny Miller, An Education (2009)
While Jenny's brand of pretentiousness is charming and adorable, largely because of Carey Mulligan's dimples and that cute British school girl thing she's got going on, she's another example of a teenager who thinks she knows more than the adults in her life. And for the most part, she might; she's gone to Paris, dated an older man, smoked French cigarettes, and danced at jazz clubs, which is more than her straight-laced teacher Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams, the object of Max Fischer's affections) can say for herself. But Jenny learns many lessons during the course of her romantic "education," including the humbling knowledge that she doesn't really have all the answers.