April 4, 2009
Review - " Adventureland " - (in Theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Greg Mattola
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, Martin Starr, Bill
Hader, Kristen Wiig
"Adventureland" is a Coming-of-age tale that is sweet, sensitive and hilarious
While the ads for “Adventureland” promise that it’s “From the director of
‘Superbad’!” it might actually be truer (if less advantageous from a marketing
point of view ) to say “From the director of ‘The Daytrippers’!” While Greg
Mottola is the filmmaker behind all three of these comedies, his new movie is
more about understated wit than outrageous antics.
Adventureland” stars Jesse Eisenberg as James, a recent college grad who
had hoped to spend the summer backpacking through Europe. After his family
suffers an economic downturn, the film is set in the ’80s but still feels
exceedingly relevant, James is stuck taking the only job he can get, working
the games concessions at a run-down local theme park.
Working in games winds up being not entirely awful, since it affords James the
opportunity to hang out with the sexy yet enigmatic Em (Kristen Stewart), who
will spend most of the summer bewitching him, and the nerdy intellectual Joel
(Martin Starr). We get to know other park employees, including Mike (Ryan
Reynolds), the handsome maintenance guy who claims to have once jammed
with Lou Reed, and vapid alpha-girl Lisa P. (Margerita Levieva).
While “Adventureland” fits squarely into the that-was-the-summer-that-changed-everything genre, it showcases its
characters with such grace that you don’t mind the familiarity of the story. James, Em and Joel are smarter than the people
who usually occupy this kind of movie — Joel refers to one girl’s rear end as “the Platonic ideal” — and they’re all uniquely
(and realistically) flawed. James isn't sure if his family can afford to send him to grad school as planned, while Em grapples
with stepmother problems and a secret go-nowhere affair with Mike.
Joel, meanwhile, comes from an impoverished family and falls for an anti-Semitic Catholic girl, and no matter how much he
knows his Russian literature, Tolstoy and Gogol aren’t proving to be much help with life after college.
With his two films currently in release — “Adventureland” and “The Education of Charlie Banks” — Jesse Eisenberg is
proving himself to be one of the most dynamic young actors currently on the scene. Even though he occasionally drifts a
little close to Michael Cera’s all-stammer-all-the-time territory, Eisenberg’s restlessly precocious characters always feel
genuine and vulnerable.
Kristen Stewart's acting is superb in this film. Her character could almost seem, dare I say, bratty on paper, but Kristen
added a sort of extra bit of brokeness to the character that made you feel completely sympathetic for her. Her character
never seems like she's asking for sympathy, but you feel it anyway. Most roles like that, you feel like the character is saying,
"Oh man, look at me, I'm so sad and my life sucks so much. Feel sorry for me." but Em never feels that way. Stewart gets to
demonstrate lots more backbone here than “Twilight” allowed.
She also has some pretty dry humor jokes that make me laugh. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and her performance.
Starr, one of my favorite “Superbad” alums, has perfect comic timing, and Director Mottola rounds out the cast with
great supporting players like of Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Wendie Malick and Jack Gilpin.
Audiences expecting the bawdy blowout advertised may not know what to make of “Adventureland,” but if you’re ready for a
poignantly sweet comedy about encroaching adulthood, you’ll find that it’s one of the best films so far this year.