02 April 2009

At the movies: Adventureland.

After his parents’ financial crisis hits right as he’s graduating High School, James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) has to get a summer job at Adventureland, Pittsburgh’s sketchiest theme park and the . Along the way, he’ll find true love, experience several different kinds of betrayals, and learn why no one can ever truly win a giant stuffed panda at the ring toss game. It’s a sweet and melancholy grand slam for director Greg Mottola, who last made Superbad. That pedigree is promising enough, but that doesn’t get at the real emotional complexity here. Eisenberg, who was absolutely devastating in The Squid and The Whale, carries off the material perfectly, and when you add in Twilight’s Kristen Stewart as the female lead, showing that she can be one of the most dynamic and alive of today’s young actresses, you’ve got a comedy that works like a drama (or vice versa, if you prefer). The little details are spot-on, and it recreates 1987 in a believable and disarming way. Adventureland deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as Fast Times at Ridgemont High or The Last American Virgin; dark and brutal comedies about the hormone-drenched humiliations and pop music-fuelled joys of youth. Nobody always makes the right choice every time, and it’s rewarding to see a film where even the supporting players feel real. If you’ve toiled at a crappy job because you had to, this is a movie for you.

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