Sunday, August 16, 2015

Movie Review: "Adventureland" (2009)

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Director: Greg Mottola
Year: 2009
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

James (Jesse Eisenberg) is a recent college graduate who was planning on spending the summer before grad school backpacking across Europe with his friend. Just before he was scheduled to leave, he is told by his parents that his father has been laid off and now, they can no longer afford to send him to Europe or possibly even help him pay for grad school. Having to now live in more modest means, they move back to their home town where James must now spend his summer working to earn money for school. Despite having a degree, with no work experience, the only job he can find is working at the local amusement park called Adventureland.

This film takes place in the summer of 1987. Jesse Eisenberg plays James, who has just graduated from college with an arts degree, one of the most popular degrees held by your local Starbucks barista. He and his formerly yuppie parents get a huge dose of reality when James's father is laid off. Now forced to get a job, James finds he is over-educated and under-experienced and is not even qualified to do most manual labor jobs. This is a sad reality for a lot of college students even now in 2015, so to see this all unfold in the late 1980's is just a stark reminder of how little things have changed. Luckily, a childhood friend hooks him up with a job at Adventureland, a low rent amusement park. James gets assigned to running fairway games where park patrons pay a lot of money to play rigged games to try and win cheap prizes. There, James meets a couple of coworkers who he gets along with well. One of these people is named Joel, played by Martin Starr, and the other is named Em, played by Kristen Stewart. Joel tells it like it is, but is a huge geek, and Em and James seem to hit it off even though they are both pretty royally screwed up individuals. Jesse Eisenberg plays the same type of character he almost always plays, a little bit sarcastic and yet also insecure, and yet sort of a know it all. The film focuses on his relationship with Em, who is essentially just Kristen Stewart with a different name. Em is a little disillusioned with a "too cool for school" attitude and a chip on her shoulder. Her father is quite wealthy, but she works at the park just to waste the opportunities afforded to her because she's angry inside. Despite liking James, she is already involved in a sexual relationship with the park's married handyman Mike, played by Ryan Reynolds, a much older man who is obviously trying to recapture his youth and stay young in an environment where people think he's cool and not the loser cheater he really is. Together, this cast makes up an enjoyable movie with some decent acting and a fairly honest middle-upper class American tale of love, friendship, failure, triumph, and pain. "Adventureland" does a good job of displaying the unsure future many post college graduates face. It's sort of an after college coming-of-age story, but it also does an excellent job of sharing that simple summertime job theme we have all come to know and love. It also captures the look, feel, and spirit of the 80's quite well against the backdrop of a cheap local amusement park. We like this movie, and where we have disliked some of these actors before, they aren't so bad here.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "The Seven Year Itch"

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