Saturday, April 18, 2009

Adventureland

Tonight I saw Adventureland, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart.

James (Eisenberg) has just completed his college degree and looks forward to graduate school with aspirations of travel writing; his parents have recently fallen on hard times and tell him in no uncertain terms that if he plans to attend Columbia (where he's been accepted), he'll have to earn the tuition himself that summer. As he's always been the "mow the lawn for money" kind of kid, he has trouble finding work and ends up at Adventureland, a local amusement park with all of the typical rides, games and characters that come with such a place.

Assigned to "Games," James befriends fellow booth slaves Joel (Martin Starr), a Jewish athiest clearly too smart for the job, and Emily (Stewart), who will be headed to NYU in the fall, and just happens to be beautiful.

Without warning, James falls for Emily, and she for him, but the situation is complicated by the sexy maintenance man Connell (Ryan Reynolds), who is married, but sleeping with Emily.

James doesn't know this, nor does Emily know that James accepted a date with Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva), the resident hottie at Adventureland, when she hurt his feelings during a double date of theirs. Drama ensues.

Recounting it in those few paragraphs, this sounds like formulaic fluff with classic love triangles and summer romance conventions, but for some reason it plays better than that.

The chemistry between Eisenberg and Stewart does seem genuine—and that helps—but more than that, there's a heart that lies deeper in the characters, which enables us viewers to empathize instead of judge. Hasn't everyone made a mistake in a relationship at some point? Probably so, and though this film may make you remember those mistakes, it will also (hopefully) remind you that you have to learn some lessons before you get it right. That is, if your human.

Furthermore, the situations in Adventureland are completely believable, and even the silliest of characters (Frigo) are somewhat real, despite how obnoxious their behavior is.

And since the story takes place in the 80s, my nostalgia radar picked up on several relics from the past, which added a nice ambiance to the overall feel of the film. I recognized the plastic bracelets and heart earrings the girls were wearing, the headband Frigo was sporting, and appreciated the brilliant soundtrack featuring Falco and Crowded House, which played naturally in the background.

Adventureland is a refreshing change from the usual bathroom-humor-laden "college" films involving frat houses and shock jokes. Instead of gratuitous language, you have appropriately timed outbursts that may contain a word or two; instead of clich├ęd sex scenes, you witness kisses that you would remember all of your life if you were living as one of the characters.

I hope other filmmakers will take a cue and make more smart comedies like this one, that come with a side of heart.

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