No longer at the age to play the awkward teen archetype he’s best known for, where can Michael Cera go from here?
Remember the scene in The Graduate in which Ben Braddock’s dad attempts to tell his son that he’s dilly-dallied enough after his graduation and that it’s about time to get serious? That’s what it must be like to be in Michael Cera’s shoes as critics speculate what’s next for him after he’s outgrown his teen pants. It’s currently expected of Michael Cera (25) to deliver something exceptional after embodying anxiety-ridden teen characters so well (Superbad, Juno, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist). Sensing the tide turning, Michael Cera has started taking roles that somewhat surpass the role of teen prince of awkward for which we have learned to know (and love) him for.
Cera’s recent choice of roles mirrors a need to free himself from the suffocating confinements of good boy acts and rebel
The danger lurking over Michael Cera’s acting career is a typical challenge for former child actors who’ve been typecast. His recent choice of roles mirrors a need to free himself from the suffocating confinements of good boy acts and rebel himself into (act surprised) roles of unlikeable characters. It was in 2013 that Cera fully unleashed his on-screen bad-boy persona, though an ambition to play villains emerged as early as 2006 in his writing debut, CBS internet series Clark and Michael. Cera’s slowly maturing rebellion briefly sparked in Youth in Revolt, with him playing the antithetical roles of a shy/sly teen.
Cera was then hooked on channelling bad boy vibes, and the next logical move was to team up with Sebastian Silva, whose knack for character studies was a good playground for an actor eager to truly shine and flex his thespian might. In 2013 adventure comedy Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus, Cera plays an inconsiderate prick whose only concerns are about how to please himself in the best possible way he can, usually by deprecating whomever he deems unworthy of his company. In thriller Magic Magic, Cera delivers an overtly sadistic character just as easily as he did his teen typecast roles. Lastly, the meta-cameo in comedy This is the End rounded up his exploration of darker roles.
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This rebellion Cera is currently performing is normcore (just look what Miley Cyrus did in 2013), and he’s aware of that. Cera is a clever fox, whose favourite playgrounds – satire and irony – provide him with wit to manoeuvre out of any possibly sticky situations. Like a brilliant criminal who aches to be caught and seen for the ingeniousness of his crimes, Cera doesn’t just rebel, he instead pokes fun at the fact he’s expected to be acting up. Thus he stages pranks on sets in which he purposefully acts like a jerk and throws hissy fits at directors. Cera doesn’t want us to believe that his bad boy character is genuine, he just wants to show us he can act that way.
Forgetting the critics, maybe after his brief touristic visits to other genres Cera will finally settle to stick with the schtick
Cera’s currently recording a voice acting role in animated comedy Sausage Party, alongside some of comedy’s dearest: Jonah Hill, James Franco, Kristen Wiig, Seth Rogen and Edward Norton. After that, not even Cera knows what happens next. Maybe Cera’s career will fall into a downward spiral, as he turns away from comedy to star in B horror movies, following the example of Edward Furlong. This isn’t a likely option, but everything’s possible at this point. Or since Cera finds it liberating to play immoral assholes, he could set out to explore the roles of larger-than-life villains in action blockbusters, using his talent for self-deprecation to embody unsympathetic but eloquent psychopaths.
A manoeuvre such as that could stop people criticising Cera for playing the same role over and over again. But maybe after his brief touristic visits to other genres, Cera will finally settle to stick with the schtick, relying on Seth Rogen to re-invent comedy with each new script, and finally embraces his innermost urge to go #normcore. Or, under the auspices of Jash, a creative comedy collective founded by Sarah Silverman, Reggie Watts, Tim Headecker, Eric Wareheim and Cera himself, Cera’s (so far modest) writing career could go through the roof and send him off to new levels of stardom, while attaining absolute power which ensures him endless artistic freedom for all eternity. Alternatively, he just ends up making short after short. For the internet.
The most likely scenario, though, is that Michael Cera is completely comfortable with where he is right now. He might just do all of the above and still have us wondering what’s up next.
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Featured image: Columbia
Inset image: The Weinstein Company/Dimension Films