by Thomas Hawk
“Adventureland” Movie Review
“Adventureland” (quality rating: 7 out of 10)
Director: Greg Mottola
Screenplay: Greg Mottola
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, Kelsey Ford, Margarita Levieva
Time: 1 hr., 47 min.
Rating: R (vulgarity, drug use and sexual references)
What? What? A film about early-20 youth that does not make the boys look and sound like air-headed balls of libidinous ego preoccupied with fashioning obscenities into a monument to the generation? And guys actually have, wha’dya-call’em, “feelings? This, my friends, is a daring movie.
Oh, this is rare. And what a breath of fresh air. Greg Mottola, the director who made the admirably funny and decent quality “Superbad,” now gives us the continuously amusing romance comedy “Adventureland” in which things happen because, in the ingenious way in which the situations unfold, they have to happen. They just grow naturally out of a virtual garden of fertile small conflicts.
Shrewd and smart, this is a well-spent ticket’s-worth of solid modern filmmaking that shames the many schlock screenwriters now pandering to the market. You would not, of course, know that from the cheap appeal publicity currently running for this movie in which, in the cynical estimate of the American intelligence by the film studios’ marketing agents, the film must advertise lots of empty laughs or die at the box office.
This film has guts and heart. Yep, even the guys. So it’s so sad that writer-director Mottola just couldn’t resist scattering some filth around. Yes, there’s drunkenness, puking, stoned characters and the curious addition of a doofus who keeps socking his buddy in the groin. And oh, yes, there’s plenty of racy talk. Still, what the film avoids is gratuitously raw zingers. The individuals actually talk to each other. . . as people, not as scripted targets for creative garbage.
So it’s1987 and here’s dorky-appearing but highly intelligent James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), just graduated in 1987 Pittsburgh and looking to his summer break. He’s anxiously facing his upcoming European trip as prelude to his fall term in graduate school at New York’s Columbia U. But, uh oh, his alcoholic dad is fired and there go James’ finances.
Instead of Europe, he’s looking at work in a woebegone, rundown amusement park called Adventureland.
Actually, there may be something positive about this, like the girl over at another concession. She’s Em (Kristen Stewart), an upfront, alienated type who shares his love of rock but who’s got some heavy personal baggage involving exiting her life with her father and her obnoxious new stepmother. For one thing, she fails to advise James that she’s in a romance with the park’s mechanic, Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds), a rock star, who’s married. When James falls for Em madly, that’s going to get emotionally hazardous when he also befriends Mike and confides in him. James being a virgin, this is salty stuff. For poor James is the kind of guy who readily reveals himself in a flow of words — how uncool is that? Especially since he’s talking about Mike’s girl Em.
Also of intrigue is Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva), one major hottie of a disco girl who maintains herself as inaccessible to her many pursuers.
There does appear to exist some question as to why Motola chose to set the story in 1987, other than the fact that in this way he doesn’t have to deal with cell phones or expensive modern rock stars. He tries to make up for that by including more than 40 pop tunes to back up the action.
So if you’re weary of youth romance comedies that treat real feelings with a shrug and integrity as box office poison, try this one. It may just point a new direction in the genre.
http://www.martymoviereviews.com Marty Meltz, 30-year former films critic for the Portland (Maine) Sunday Telegram. Offering right-to-the-point reviews that address directly the question of the film’s entertainment value to you. Films have personalities. It doesn’t matter who wrote it, who directs it, who stars in it, if it doesn’t reach out to you with charisma. I examine its honesty and intelligence. Are you being respected, or are you being jerked around?