Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, Martin Starr, Margarita Levieva
Directed and written by Greg Mottola
IMDB Rating: 6.8
Adventureland stars Jesse Eisenberg as James Brennan, a college graduate whose plans for a summer touring Europe are ruined by his father ‘changing jobs’. As a result he is forced to take up a summer job, and with no previous experience has to take a minimum pay job at a sketchy amusement park, Adventureland. Over the summer he gets especially close to co-worker Em (Stewart), who is secretly sleeping with the parks married mechanic Mike (Reynolds). The film follows James over the summer as he learns about love and values through various experiences with Em and the other workers at the park including Mike and co-workers Joel (Starr) and the beautiful Lisa P (Levieva).
It took me a while to write my plot description for this film, and in the end I had to settle for “he learns about love and values” because if I said any more I would feel like I’m giving it away, and that’s just not fair! This is the kind of film that will unassumingly go on a different path, it truly feels like a summers worth of experiences for James and Em with everything that happens – Mottola has made something more than a cheap teen rom-com movie, put it that way! I wouldn’t call it a coming-of-age movie, because I don’t think he really changes enough as a person from the beginning to the end to merit that. It is more of a ‘what I did this summer’ type of movie, where James meets a new group of people and goes through the whole ‘not quite a relationship’ situation with Em.
This is a film set in the late 80’s, and while I’m by far an expert on 80’s culture and what-not, I thought they did a very good job on making the whole film feel ‘retro’ – the fashion particularly kept quietly reminding you that this isn’t a modern day film. I’ve seen films (particularly teen movies) that because they’re set in a different era go completely over the top with clothes and environments from that time, and it can be really cheesy. However I think this film does the 80’s very delicately, and that’s something that even blockbusters have done wrong before, so huge credit goes to Adventureland for that!
It is undeniable that Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart are two fine and successful actors, however to try and pair together two people whose natural look is ‘I don’t care about anyone’ may have not been the best idea! There just isn’t that much chemistry between the two of them, especially in moments where they are meant to be falling for each other. In terms of who was better, I think Stewart maybe just edged it, due to being a more believable teenager than Eisenberg. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig also have small roles in this film as the couple who run the theme park – these are two of the most underrated comedy actors in the business, and it’s no surprise that they both put in very funny and enjoyable performances in their relatively small time on screen. It is also worth mentioning Margarita Levieva, who played Lisa P and was a very convincing 80’s ‘disco chick’. Ryan Gosling was okay, but has had much better roles and performances than in Adventureland, and it’s okay performances across the rest of the board as well.
Greg Mottola (director of Superbad) does a solid job of directing Adventureland. There’s nothing out of the ordinary with the shots and character movements, but what you see on the screen is far from boring. It’s not exactly beautiful, but it adds to what you’re hearing and feeling from the story and as mentioned earlier gives off a strong 80’s vibe that could have easily been done wrong!
I am undecided about what to think of this movie, I think the problem I have (not the movie itself) is that I don’t know how to look at it. I want to say it’s a romance but there’s more than that, and I want to say it’s a comedy but I don’t think there’s actually that much comedy in it. I don’t get how some people can call it ‘an outrageously funny comedy’ because that’s just not true. It is almost a romantic, funny, coming-of-age hybrid that is surprisingly hard to box into a category. Whatever it is, I know that I’ll be watching it again, so it must have done something right!