September 10, 2009

Adventureland movie image slice.jpg

Adventureland is definitely a case of a film not being what I expected.  Not surprisingly, those expectations evolved out of how the movie was marketed-the advertisements were very, very misleading as to the nature of the picture.  Watching the trailer one would have thought the film to be a very broad coming-of-age comedy.  Considering that the writer-director was Greg Mottola, whose previous release was the extremely broad coming-of-age movie Superbad, it would seem to be a reasonable expectation.  Wrong, as it turned out, but reasonable. That doesn’t mean the movie isn’t good. More after the jump:

bill_hader_and_kristen_wiig_adventureland_movie_image_.jpgLoosely based on Mottola’s memories of his own worst job ever, Adventureland follows recent college grad James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), who is forced to take a summer job at an amusement park to pay for his Columbia University grad school apartment when his parents suddenly spring on him that they are going through financial troubles-so much for his graduation present of a trip to Europe.  The amusement park turns into the real world education Brennan never had.  He develops a relationship with-and falls in love with-one of his co-workers, Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart), but that collapses when he finds out that she has been sleeping with the park’s married repair technician, Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds), who incidentally has been giving Brennan (mostly) constructive advise about his relationship with Em.  When word of the affair gets out, Em quits.  After a drunk driving accident exhausts Brennan’s summer earnings, ending any chance of grad school, he decides to move to New York anyway to find Em and make up.

What makes Adventureland is the acting.  The story is, not surprisingly, somewhat predictable (although there are a couple of small twists), and the movie contains many humorous moments.  But there also is some real poignancy, and the beginning of the film feels appropriately uncomfortable as Brennan adjusts to his new world.  These moments would fall completely flat if not for the fine performances.  Jesse Eisenberg is excellent as Brennan, and Kristen Stewart’s emotions are truly palpable. Martin Starr (as Em and Brennan’s friend and co-worker Joel) also stands out in a supporting role.

jesse_eisenberg_and_kristen_stewart_adventureland_movie_image_.jpgKudos also goes to Mottola for making a 1980s period film that doesn’t fall into 80s cliché.  Doing so would have destroyed any punch that the picture had, turning it into an unintended spoof.  Instead, Mottola has captured the time frame without “playing” the stereotypes of the time.

Video / Audio / Extras

Pretty standard stuff here: 1.85:1 widescreen picture, 5.1 Dolby Digital audio, run-of-the-mill special features… in other words, nothing special about them.  Deleted scenes (wise cuts, they would have added nothing to the film just as they add nothing to the extras), your typical director’s commentary (also with lead actor Eisenberg), a very by-the-book making of featurette “Just My Life”, and Picture Music Selection (ooo, thrilling).  Definitely a case of throwing something on the disc because the DVD distributor knows consumer expect something to be there-whether its worth the effort or not.

Final Words

A surprisingly good coming-of-age story.

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