September 5, 2009

#036: Adventureland

Adventureland was advertised like a Judd Apatow, Superbad-esque comedy. If you go in with that expectation you will be severely disappointed. It is a comedy, but overall I didn't think it was that funny... nor was it trying to be. The movie centers around James, played by Jesse Eisenberg, who is forced to get a job at a crappy theme park to pay for graduate school. He is assigned to work the games, where he meets Em, played by Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame.

 This film is really well made, and it does a ton of things right. However, it also does several things wrong. Bill Hader and Kristin Wigg play roles that just didn't work for me, and I didn't find funny. I also didn't care for the character played by Ryan Reynolds. His acting wasn't bad, he actually did a great job. He just seemed out of place to me. There are a few other minor things I didn't like about the movie, but overall I really enjoyed it. Jesse Eisenberg is perfect for this role. He is a really great actor and he really makes this film work. I have only seen him in one other film, The Squid And The Whale. Ironically, James from Adventureland could almost be an older version of the character he played in The Squid And The Whale. He does a great job in both films. I was just ragging on Amy Adams for always playing the same character, but if Jesse Eisenburg does the same thing I will be happy to watch every one of his performances.

It is really hard for me to describe the thing I like best about Adventureland. It somehow feels honest and heartfelt. It did an amazing job at pulling me into the world where these kids are living. As I watched it I almost felt as though I was reminiscing about something I had actually gone through. I never specifically worked at a park, but this film deals with broad themes that we all have experienced. I felt connected to the characters for the first 3/4 of this film. I had a great time with it, and could watch it several times and it wouldn't get boring.

 I enjoyed the attention the film payed to the interactions between characters. It has several interesting characters and relationships that really add to the film. However, its overall success relies on your acceptance of the relationship between James and Em. I totally bought into it. I felt Kristen Stewart played her character well. She was really charming, and I could believe that our main character was attracted to her, in spite of her faults. That relationship was the key of the film, and I thought it worked really well. However, the ending bothered me a little bit. So often we see the ending where the boy gets the girl and everybody lives happily ever after. That ending gives you a sense of resolution, finality and satisfaction. In Adventureland the boy gets the girl, but it feels very bittersweet. My reaction could be totally unique, but I didn't see it as the happy ending we were all hoping for. The film is about how we all move through this world and grow from our experiences. It contrasts a summer spent traveling Europe to a summer spent working at a shit-hole theme park. James learned more about life from working at this crappy job than he would have by back-packing through France. At the end we see him with the girl, but it didn't feel like a happily ever after. It felt more like a bump in the road that had to be crossed before he could move on to the next stage.


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