Adventureland (2009)

June 30, 2012 By Samantha T
Movie Review

What happens when your father’s financial troubles stop you from going on a masterful and perfect trip to Europe? You get a job. And when every place you apply isn’t hiring a graduate with a degree in comparative literature, you move in with your parents in Suburbia.

Once financial troubles hit recent graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg)’s family, he goes to get a job at Adventure land, a place where dreams go to find reality and people find people like themselves….sometimes.

Written and directed by Greg Mottola, this coming of age film has all the classical identifiers: the 90’s clothes, the great vintage music, the long stares in the car and, what is perhaps the most crucial element: suburbia. And while Mottola’s film may have all those elements, something about his work is charmingly unique as it defines an era of suburbia kids trying to follow dreams and goals where all odds are stacked against them.

Yet unlike all the films that show the success of just believing in yourself, the character’s in Adventureland understand and acknowledge their helplessness and stagnant lives with acceptance. Their acceptance is never a question – the film focuses more on the small ways they try to break their bleak and unpromising futures: the mix tapes, the late night dancing, the conversations on hill tops about their dreams.

The film, while mellow and relaxed, explores the lives of these teens with grace and sensitivity. The cinematography is not particularly artistic, but  why should it be in a world of bleak?

Aside from James and Em (Kristen Stewart), the supporting roles played by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader (as co managers of the park) is nothing short of perfect comedic relief for any and every situation they’re placed in. The two of them make Adventureland this ridiculous situation where people come to grow up in some sort of way and find their place.

Similarly, the script is as realistic as it is poetic. There is no unnecessary dialogue and, much like in real life, the characters do not always say what is on their mind. It is a stark portrayal of adolescent realism, yet combined with the passion between James and Em (Kristen Stewart) and their intelligent conversations, the film is has a poetic touch to it. There’s nothing quite like watching James and Em become entranced with each other, struggling with their inability to say exactly how they feel or commit to what they both desperately want. The lust, while nothing new, is mixed with bleak realities of both Em and James being involved with other people.

The tendency for the film to center around the romance and relationships between no only James and Em, but their involvement with others, saturates the film with emotion. In combination with the organic dialogue, the film drifts from one moment to the next, much like a summer romance would.

And, at the end, when they’re taken out of the suburbia setting and find their place in a small studio, the film remains true to its bleak and poetic nature. There’s nothing like the true desire to follow your dreams with the one you love right next to you, and these are two people whose story will continue on long after the closing credits roll across the screen.

Film Recommendations:

Super Bad

The Wackness

Garden State


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