Adventureland

2009-06-10 17:27
 
Adventureland

What it’s about:

It's 1987 and recent college graduate (Jesse Eisenberg) finds out that he can’t afford a long-planned trip to Europe. With time on his hands and no money to fill it with, he takes a summer job at the Adventureland amusement park. Amid a ragtag bunch of loners and stoners, he falls for an intriguing co-worker (Kristen Stewart) and they experience a summer that changes their lives.


What we thought of it:

When I was 18, I got a summer job along with a few other suckers, typing numbers into a computer for a big insurance company. It was so stultifyingly, mind-deadeningly boring, we used to get drunk at lunchtime at the Spur across the road and then make out in the smokers’ courtyard. And lo, the crappiness of repetitive work is alleviated via the liberal application of booze and hormones, reducing it to the backdrop against which the electrifying drama of our lives played out. Of course, this is all only evident in retrospect.

That’s the trick that Adventureland tries to pull off: using a gauzy film of nostalgia to obscure the dreariness of a pointless summer job. It also creates a pretty good smokescreen for the film’s shortcomings, but that’s nothing that a selective memory can’t filter out.

Adventureland is the creation of Greg Mottola, director of 2007’s Superbad. In many ways, it feels like an evolution of the same theme – but where Superbad goes for the cheap 'n dirty laughs (with damn funny results), this movie takes a more circumspect approach. It’s also a coming-of-age story about a handful of drinking, smoking, puking losers, and deals with them with equal respect, but the experience is far more bittersweet. And that’s why I get the feeling that people the age of the characters in Adventureland are the ones who’ll be most disappointed in the film. Slow-paced, with a lightweight plot, it calls for more introspection than hilarity.

The kind of people who’ll like this film are the music geeks, stoners, dropouts and slackers who remember a time when calling someone up meant you had to talk to their parents on the landline first – in other words, people like the film’s director, not like its cast. It is, after all, at least semi-autobiographical. It’s a nostalgia trip, first and foremost, but one that doesn’t parody the 80s so much as treat it with affectionate respect – with a sly jab in the ribs now and then (like asking the very pertinent question: how the hell did "Rock Me, Amadeus" become such a huge hit?) But maybe I underestimate the universality of the coming-of-age experience: smoking pot, getting drunk, getting laid and falling in love (not necessarily in that order) are the same as they’ve ever been, and aren’t likely to change anytime soon. Do varsity-aged filmgoers want to see the awkwardness of their formative years writ large on the screen, without the buffer of
Superbad-style slapstick to take the sting off the jab? Maybe – but this one’s for the outcasts and loners. Think Dazed and Confused rather than American Pie.

The soundtrack oozes the kind of hipster cred that was in short supply in those days – the bulk of music you’d hear on the radio then contained more Falco than Lou Reed. In this reworking of the era, though, the background music to their lives involves David Bowie, Husker Dü, The Replacements, The Cure, New York Dolls, The Velvet Underground, and so on - a love-fest of bands revered by the current indie rock scene.

And on the subject of indie darlings: let’s just state this upfront so there’s no confusion. Kristen Stewart is heart-stoppingly beautiful. I just wish she could emerge from behind the dewy, skittish persona and show the warmth that supposedly lies beneath. It’s an act that works perfectly in a small role such as Into the Wild, but I don’t see enough development to be able to sustain an entire film such as Twilight or Adventureland. Jesse Eisenberg does a more credible job as a smart but awkward kid who wears his heart on his sleeve. His stammering awkwardness finds a home amongst the misfits of the Adventureland amusement park crew. His inevitable crush on the icy Em (Stewart) just makes me feel bad for the beating this guy’s going to take at the hands of the cruel world – but of course, that just makes us root for him harder.

For those of us with the benefit of having a few years placed between us and our early twenties, the wry humour and bittersweet stabs of youth make Adventureland a worthwhile enough indulgence. If you’re looking for more meat on your movie, however, this helping of nostalgia probably won’t fill you up.


Twilight hottie Kristen Stewart takes an 80's nostalgia trip in a movie that doesn’t mock the era - it gives it affectionate head-noogies.

preshen govender 2009/06/11 4:25 PM
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Great movie , it’s like the story of my life …. … smoking alcohol and drinking drugs ?
JOE SOMAI 2009/06/11 4:54 PM
Hey preshen, u got it all wrong, its a tale of my life... sex, sex, sex
Danny 2009/06/11 4:59 PM
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Preshen Govender, you're an idiot. Joe Somai, you're a bigger idiot.
Ice^Man 2009/06/11 7:19 PM
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you all are idiots !
preshen govender 2009/06/12 8:51 AM
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@Danny SIZE DOES NOT MATTER !!!
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