Friday, April 3, 2009
Some films just don't work for me. Two years ago, one of the most overhyped and overquoted films I got a chance to see was Superbad. Directed by Greg M0ttola, Superbad, while funny, didn't really have anything plot or character based to truly munch on. However, Mottola is back with his new film, Adventureland, and it more than meets my cinematic appetite.
Everybody has a job experience that they, rather not talk about. For me, it's working dishes at a couple of restaurants for three summers. Now, that's not the worst job in the world, but it's one that I dreaded going to every day. Then comes Adventureland. A coming of age story about a guy, James, who, instead of taking a trip to Europe, is stuck working at a very homely looking theme park, Adventureland, in 1987. There, he meets the troubled (yet still gorgeous) Em, played by Kristen Stewart. The film spans a summer full of love, loss, and really harsh crotch punches, and works for every second of it.
The real star of this film is Jesse Eisenberg, who plays our lead. He's a romantic intellectual who gets stiffed out of a summer trip by his parents, and the way he plays the vunerable intellectual should have Michael Cera shaking in his Chuck Taylors. Where his bit seems to be stale, there is something really fresh about what Eisenberg is doing in this film. The way he works with the language and the interchanges between he and the supporting cast worked the entire time. The other show stealer is a smaller player. Bill Hader absolutley steals every single scene he is in, particularly after a guy threatens James, that it's something you won't be able to forget.
The rest of the supporting cast is also really great. Kristen Stewart, while cliche for her, is great, and James' friends also have their moments. The only flaw in the cast is Ryan Reynolds. He plays a cheating husband, who has a brief but all to awkward relationship with our female lead. He's normally a really charming guy, but his performance just seemed to fall on deaf ears in this film.
Another really superb thing about this film is the way it is visualized. The period is sold in the clothing and in the amazing soundtrack, but it's the direction that excells here. Mottola is able to stay in on the action while still giving us a great sense of vunerability with the frame that it makes this a really great experience.
However, when juding a comedy, two things need to be there. Laughs, and the right kind. Adventureland gets an A+ in both accounts. The problem with films such as Superbad is that the humor is simply joke based. Funny in the moment, but then you simply push it away for more highly detailed drawings of male reproductive orgins. However, in Adventureland, the jokes are not only hilarious, but they play into what the character delivering the joke is like, and what his or her role within the story is. It's plot based humor, which allows for each viewing to be just as comical as the next. Yes, some jokes fell flat, mainly when coming from Reynolds, but a majority of the film is quite funny.
The film also gets the sense of innocence and vunerability that is a staple of a budding relationship. Most teen films simply see relationships as something that come and pass as the summer goes, but in this film, it's much more organic, and the performances make the whole "first true love" idea palpable. It reminds me very much of Brick in that way. In Brick, the relationship between the male lead and the girl he is hunting after is so real, that it is completely relateable. You would do anything for someone, and this film really gives off a naturalistic vibe.
Yes, the film is cliche ridden. There is a stoner best friend, silly cock punches, and our geeky virgin of a lead, but with this really mature outing from Mr. Mottola, it all falls to the wayside in a truly fresh take on the teen comedy.
Oh, and Yo La Tengo does the music, so kudos for that.
Please, if you get a chance, check out Adventureland, you won't be sorry.
ADVENTURELAND - 8.5/10
Go see something good!
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