Saturday, 21 August 2010

Adventureland (Mottola, 2009)

In Adventureland, directed by 2007 hit Superbad's Greg Mottola, James Brennan (played by Jesse Eisenberg, another graduate from the Michael Cera school of gawkiness)'s plans to travel Europe fall apart, and he is forced to get a summer job at Adventureland, a slightly run down, tacky amusement park. Reluctantly arriving at the park, he is immediately thrown into work by eccentric park management team Bobby (Bill Hader, sporting a fantastic eighties 'tache) and Paulette (Kristen Wiig), and befriends super-geeky Joel (Martin Starr) and quirky Em (Kristen Stewart). 

Set in the summer of 1987, Adventureland has just enough retro to add a quirky twist to the basic nerd-com recipe, but not so much to simply feel like a stale nostalgia movie. The soundtrack, featuring and Judas Priest and David Bowie, adds to the feel of the era perfectly. Watching James and Em ride around the dodgems is made magical by the inclusion of The Cure's beautiful track, Just Like Heaven. The fact that the movie was filmed in a real amusement park rather than simply a purpose-built set makes the setting realistic and vibrant.

Eisenberg delivers the sweet and nerdy virgin character perfectly, without falling into the easy trap of overdoing it, but the surprise of the movie for me was a certain leading lady. Prior to watching this movie, my knowledge of Kristen Stewart (referred to by Twi-hard obsessives as 'K-Stew') was limited to the constant huffing, sulking and brooding displayed as Bella in Twilight. However, as Em, she shows actual acting talent - although still demonstrating the teenage awkwardness seen in her Bella character, there is much more depth, and a far fiestier, engaging character than that of her best known role. She manages to deliver the troubled teen in a realistic, honest way. The theme of teenage awkwardness is pivotal to the film - many of James and Em's chats come wrought with sideways looks and fumbing of words, making the couple's developing relationship even sweeter.

Standing in the way, however, is mysterious park maintenance man and musician Connell ( played by Ryan Reynolds), who has his own vested interest in Em despite being a married man. Although the role could easily have been played out as an unsympathetic womanizing 'bad guy', instead he is played with humanity, as more of a romantic who has issues with placing his affections. Local dancing hottie Lisa P (Margarita Levieva) complicates things further, when she a shine to James. Intertwined with the romantic storyline, the antics of the park crew propel the film - the fun, laughter and escapades are funny, sometimes touching, and complemented by lovable characters. The friendships between the complex and often dysfunctional characters make the film a magical coming-of-age quirky extravaganza.

The characters of Bobby and Paulette also give a fantastic comical interlude to the main story - the seriousness of the most mundane park organisational conversations are deadpan comedy genius. Visual contrast and feeling can be drawn stylistically to Napoleon Dynamite (Hess, 1994), particularly in the opening credits and park uniform t-shirts, and the character of Joel is reminiscent in mannerisms of the title character of said movie.

If I wanted to be cheesy, you could call Adventureland a 'rollercoaster ride' about being young and finding your own adventure. Enough cheese now, its bedtime...all thats left to say is quite simply, I loved this movie. And someone, please, buy me this.


1 comment:

  1. One of my favourite films as of late, while not only adding to my on going love for Jesse Eisenberg, who is essentially Michael Cera as you rightfully pointed out, but atleast it feels like he's trying to bring variation to his performances. Kristen Stewart is also a big surprise seeing how she is so commonly seen for her bored Twilight appearances and this along with "The runaways" proved that she has potential to still be an interesting actress. Maybe in a perfect world Thora Birch would have picked up her role, but guess gotta keep dreaming for that one, much like there ever being a half decent Indie cinema in Southampton, which I guess is also wishful thinking :)
    Cool blog.