Title: AdventurelandDirector: Greg Mottola
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Martin Starr, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig
Plot: Set in the summer of 1987, were James (Eisenberg) has graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in comparative Literature and looking forward to a summer spent touring Europe before going to New York to study journalism. However these plans are soon sunk when his parents announce that they won’t be able to finance his trip as originally planned. Now faced with having to find a summer job, he soon finds himself working at the local amusement park Adventureland.
Review: Sometimes it takes just one movie to launch a career, or so it would seem at least for Jesse Eisenberg, who always seemed to be lurking below the radar of the moving going public making films like “Rodger Dodger” and the much underrated “The Squid and the Whale”. That was until the double punch of “Zombieland” and “The Social Network” wich for a period truly launched him into the mainstream. Now while these two films were both undoubtedly great (jaw dropingly so in the case of “The Social Network”), it is the films which he made in between these two career milestones which for myself are the most interesting films and sadly also the most overlooked, especially when it comes to this film.
From the start its clear that James believes that he knows his path in life, having spent his life living in his intellectual bubble which has seemingly also shielded him from the real world until now as he finds himself further shell shocked when his preferred career choice at “Adventureland” of working on “Rides” is rejected in favour of “Games”. A role it soon seems is more hazardous than you would expect especially when employees can be fired for giving away one of the oversized stuffed panda’s, which is less of a problem when most of the games are fixed, so that no one ever wins any of the big prizes, as highlighted by the tour given by his co-worker and fellow intellectual Joel (Starr) while also being introduced to Em (Stewart), whose combination of troubled home life and shared musical tastes makes her a source of instant interest to James.
James himself while not exactly have much in the way of assets outside of his supply of joints which soon proves all he really needs to win over his fellow employee’s, aswell as covering for his shortcomings such as his virginity and bookish naïveté, both things we expect him to loose by the end of this summer, yet it is really the intellectual slacker charm of Eisenberg which makes this character work so well, as he bumbles his ways through casual conversation with Em, while at the same time convincingly discussing the relevance of “Moby Dick” with Joel. The rest of the cast while varying in terms of star power all embody their various characters with Ryan Reynolds and Kristen Stewart proving once more that their best work is found away from their more mainstream projects with Stewart in particular being especially of note, especially as she finds herself more and more frequently tied to her millstone of “Twilights” Bella, she is here on much more enjoyable form, as she oozes a damaged yet unquestionably cool aura which would give even Scott Pilgrims Ramona Flowers a run for her money.
Perfectly capturing the spirit of summer jobs, especially for those of us, whom like myself lived in towns which really were only ever alive during the tourist months and essentially dead the rest of the year and while I never worked in an amusement park, having opted instead to lifeguard at my local swimming pool stopping young kids from drowning themselves on the flumes and generally spending by day inhaling chlorine fumes and having random conversations with my friends, there is something which still rings so true about this movie. For here your summer job, much like my own summer jobs are less about career prospects and more about making money, random conversations with your friends and general misadventures all which form the general focus here, while refreshingly not overplaying the 80’s setting, by keeping it firmly as a background for the story to play out against solely, aswell as an excuse to dig out some of the better tracks of the era, with a particular affection for Lou Reed in particular the laid back tones of “Satellite of Love”.
An interesting follow up to the gleefully crude “Superbad” by crafting a film more in tune with “Dazed and Confused” than the gross out humour of his previous film, as he marks a decidedly different change in direction if one still set well within the same general territory for director Greg Mottola, as he crafts a much more subtle and thoughtful film, while drawing inspiration from his own summers spent working at an amusement part of the same name in Farmingdale, New York and its these experiences which certainly help to craft a realistic picture of the monotony of the working day, especially not made anymore bearable when forced to listen to the same songs on a constant loop especially when one of those song is the hideous “Rock Me Armadeus” by Falco.
Within the confines of the park Mottola has staffed it with a colourful mixture of characters, who all in their own way help to shape the course of James summer such as the park’s maintenance man Mike (Reynolds) who bizarrely is never seen without his guitar and generally playing on claims of having jammed with Lou Reed. Equally memorable is Bill Hader as the eccentric park manager Bobby, who while more restrained than he was in “Superbad” still provides more than a few memorable moments, especially when getting to invoke his psycho side caused by people littering in the park or just from the general banter with his wife and co-manager Paulette (Wiig).
A fun and laid back indie comedy, it’s refreshing to finally have a comedy which harks back to the memorable dialogue favouring comedies of the 90’s such as “Dazed and Confused” and “Clerks”, rather than resorting to lazy and gross out gags and stoner humour, as Mottola not only gives his cast a chance to shine, but at the same time doesn’t sacrifice the story for the sake of getting extra laughs and while it might have somehow slipped under the radar, a fact which still confuses me even now yet despite this it is still truly worth hunting down.