Sunday, August 30, 2009

Movie Log: Adventureland

I was a teenager in the '80s myself -- though I never worked at an amusement park -- so I was pre-disposed to like Adventureland, in which Jesse Eisenberg (whom The Wife and I just saw in his far more obscure movie Roger Dodger earlier in the week; it's truly an odd and random world) plays the Michael Cera character: young, earnest, tongue-tied, sexually inexperienced and naive, and amazingly good-natured.

Eisenberg's character, James Brennan, graduates from an unspecified college in the opening scenes, but quickly learns that his plans to spend the summer in Europe, tramping around with his rich college friends, won't happen; his father has been transferred to a worse job, and he'll need to get a job himself to help pay for his grad school in the fall. (Eisenberg is actually 26, but he looks and acts more like 18 in this movie, so there was some befuddlement for a while in our viewing location about the fact that he's supposed to be a college graduate who's still that young-seeming, innocent, and so forth. He feels much more like a high school graduate, or he went to a really, really academically-focused college and did nothing else for four years.)

So James gets a job at Adventureland, the local mediocre amusement park, partly because his ex-friend Frigo (a jerk who is always punching James in the balls and otherwise abusing him, which James never retaliates....because he's an utter "nice guy" wimp) can give him rides to work. And, once there, he quickly falls for co-worker Em (Kristen Stewart), who is also having a secret affair with the older married maintenance man Mike (Ryan Reynolds).

And things amble on from there, through a fairly large cast, including a number of young park workers, two or three sets of parents and the couple that run Adventureland. The center is the James-Em relationship, though James is such a puppy dog that he doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, he actually has it in his outstretched hand all day long, and so he tells anyone he's having a conversation with that he's in love with Em, nearly from the moment he meets her. (Did this boy even date in college?) All of the youngsters have various parent problems, and they also have each other problems. There's a sexy girl -- Margarita Levieta as Lisa P. -- who might like James for his puppy-dog-ness, but that never comes into focus, though they do have a "date."

Actually, Adventureland is an amiable collection of subplots that don't reach much resolution. James and Em do date, more or less, for a while over the summer -- or, rather, they have a series of scenes together -- and then things go wrong, leading to a muted version of the Big Romantic Gesture at the end. It's a pleasant movie, but I suspect it relies too much on the actual memories and history of the screenwriter and not enough on invention and craft; it could have used a bit more focus. (For one thing, we don't learn that this park is outside Pittsburgh until the end credits.)

Listening to: Moonbabies - Summer Kids Go
via FoxyTunes

1 comment:

KatG said...

He went to Oberlin College, which is why he is wearing an Oberlin College T-shirt at first. Oberlin is in the tiny town of Oberlin, OH, and there's nothing much to do there except what they have at the college, unless you have a car, and it is very academically-focused. "Nerds," "hippies," classical musicians and philosophy majors are all very normal at Oberlin. Also, it's established that he lives near Pittsburgh pretty early in the film, but you have to realize that's what they mean when they say "Pitts." It was a sweet film, kind of by-the-numbers coming of age, but pretty good in a rambling way, as you said.

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