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Review: Adventureland (2009)

Adventureland (2009)

Directed by: Greg Mottola

Premise: A college graduate (Jesse Eisenberg) takes a summer job at a Pittsburgh amusement park and falls for a fellow employee (Kristen Stewart).

What Works: Adventureland walks the line between comedy and drama, using both very effectively. The film is fundamentally a coming of age story in which a college graduate with an impractical degree learns about life outside of the ivory tower. What is so impressive about Adventureland is that it neither dismisses the value of the protagonist’s education nor does it ridicule the blue-collar life. Instead, the film suggests that his education has given him a thoughtful and insightful vantage point to view and deal with life, but up until now he has not applied it to the act of living. This is a very unusual mix and it is extremely prescient of the rural-versus-urban conflict that has characterized the culture in the last decade. The performances by the core cast are extremely good and the actors are helped tremendously by a screenplay that treats their characters with respect. Although there are a lot of stock characters here like the bad girl, the geek, and the wise elder, the script gives them a lot of room to be more than functions of the story. The little dramas and idiosyncrasies give the film a lot of its laughs but they also give it a sense of authenticity and credibility and as the main character learns about life at his time at the park the film allows things to be messy in very real ways. The characters and situations of Adventureland are not squeaky clean, as they make terrible decisions or do cruel things to one another, and yet the human frailty and fallibility of the characters gives Adventureland a street credibility that makes it much more believable and engaging.

What Doesn’t: Although Adventureland does a nice job developing its characters, the film’s only major flaw is its steady reliance on clichés of the romance and coming of age plots. It is pretty easy to figure out where this is going and there are few deviations from the tradition.

DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, and a commentary track.

Bottom Line: Adventureland is a fine piece of work on par with films like Clerks, The Breakfast Club, and Waiting. Although it may be predictable, the film has a lot to offer audiences as a character study and it makes for a very enjoyable piece of cinema.  

Episode: #266 (November 22, 2009)