Film review by: Witney Seibold


            Grog Mottola’s “Adventureland” may make onto my year-end best-of list. It’s a romance almost on par with “Say Anything.” Despite its advertising, calling it a gross-out comedy, it’s actually an intelligent, sweet and honest film about the halcyon days of summer, the true-to-life frustrations of a lousy job, and the natural camaraderie you form with certain co-workers in the mutual recognition of what a sorry job you’re both forced to work. Everyone has had a workplace crush at some point in their lives, and many I know have met hookups, boyfriends, girlfriends, and even spouses through the workplace. “Adventureland” captures the ambivalence of a tight group of friends loving one another in an atmosphere where they’re all miserable.


            James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) has just graduated college, and plans on moving to New York with his best friend. His plans are quickly interrupted by the revelation that his parents have run out of money, and he’ll have to get a summer job just to pay his way at home, much less move to New York and have the bohemian existence he was looking forward to. Seeing as his degree in comparative literature isn’t really applicable in the working-class sector, James is forced to take a job at the second-tier Philly theme park called Adventureland. He is set to work at the games booth.


            He learns important life lessons, like how the games aren’t winnable, no one is to win a big-ass panda, and only those who are truly trusted by the management are allowed to operate the rides. His uniform says “Games Game Games.” By the second day, suicidal frustration has already set in.

 Adventureland 2

            Luckily, he makes a few friends. There is Joel (a terrific Martin Starr), a lover of Russian literature and who smokes a pipe. Yes, he’s that nerdy. There’s Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva) who is Adventureland’s notoriously unattainable babe. There is the older ultracool maintenance guy Mike (Ryan Reynolds) who wears shades and carries an acoustic guitar around with him. And, most importantly, there is Em (Kristen Stewart, who seems to be improving with every role), the cute, polite, worldly young lady in the games booth down the row from James. Yes, James falls for Em.

 Lisa P

            Eventually complications arise in each of these people’s lives, the most striking of which is the secret presence of Mike in Em’s sex life, but none of the advancements are put forth to merely advance the plot. This is not a wacky romantic comedy in which the complications are contrives or sitcom-y. This, despite its overabundance of funny moments, is a legitimate romance film, and the people react to one another in believable ways.


            What’s more, they’re all smart. These are people to whom music and literature are important, and the screenplay knows better than to just state that. When these people talk about music and literature, they’re using the correct terms; Mottola knows the significance of a well-placed Hüsker Dü t-shirt.


            By the time we get to the ending, we’re not just blandly satisfied that things have worked out the way they have; we’re genuinely happy that things have happened they way they would have in real life. That this film is based on Mottola’s real life is not purprise.

Published in: on May 13, 2009 at 9:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

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