My Favorite Movies – Adventureland (2009)

26 Apr

By Tanner Smith

Like a lot of people, I was disappointed that director Greg Mottola’s follow-up to “Superbad” wasn’t…well, much like “Superbad.” I would still recommend “Adventureland” for what I saw it as: a funny, sweet coming-of-age dramedy that wasn’t anything special. But then after watching it again a few years later, holy cow, it’s something special–it even caused me to write my first revised review. (Link: https://smithsverdict.com/2013/06/28/adventureland-2009-revised-review/)

Everyone remembers their first job, and not everyone has the most pleasant memories of it–but there were some things worth remembering about it, whether we want to acknowledge them or not. James (Jesse Eisenberg) is the artistic type: one who would rather do anything but work a minimum wage job at a summer amusement park. But that’s exactly what happens to him, as he’s in charge of games at Adventureland for the whole summer, just so he can pay for grad school in New York City.

This is one of those theme parks where half the games are rigged and even if you win, you throw away the crappy prize soon after.

James makes friends with his coworkers, including deadpan intellectual Joel (Martin Starr), and starts a possible fling with Em (Kristen Stewart), who is also heading to NYC after the summer. When the bombshell Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva) is also working at the park and starts flirting with James, that’s when James has trouble.

I know the obvious choice is for James to stay with Em because she seems more his type, but how many of us made smart choices at a young age? Even if we’re smart, who says we can’t act stupid? What makes it even more complicated is that Em is the secret mistress of Connell (Ryan Reynolds), the park’s maintenance man who is married.

There’s more to these characters than we expect, and in a weirdly effective way, both the comedy and the drama come from how they react to each situation. And things don’t resolve in ways we expect them to either.

“Adventureland” is about the routine experiences of a summer job, finding ways to keep it interesting through the people you meet and the misadventures you have, and with characters that grow a convincing bond together. It’s about structure and about character, and I loved spending time with these people. I wondered what would become of these people years down the road.

Oh, I forgot to mention it takes place in 1987–pre-social-media, and a time when if you wanted to ask a girl out on a date, you had to call her house phone and ask her father if she was home.

My favorite scene: I’m not entirely sure this is my favorite scene, but it has my favorite quote in the movie. It’s when James and Joel are thinking about the future, and Joel wonders what the point is of being an artist, especially since Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, was so insignificant that he was referred to as “Henry” Melville when he passed.

James disagrees:

“No, I mean, he wrote a seven-hundred page allegorical novel about the whaling industry. I think he was a pretty passionate guy, Joel. I hope they call me Henry when I die, too.”

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