15 April 2009


CARL: Smart, emotionally honest, and funny.
JAY: Smart, serious, funny (but not as funny as you would be led to think by watching the previews, basically, a marketing problem)

Adventureland is written and directed by Greg Motolla, who got his street cred directing Superbad. The film follows James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) during the summer of 1987, when a change in financial situations forces him to forego his post-grad tour of Europe to work at a local amusement park. The film's main focus is on Brennan as he develops a romance with Emily Lewin (Kristen Stewart). Complicating things are a ditzy but 80s-sexy co-worker called "Lisa P" (Margarita Levieva) who has eyes for Brennan, and Emily's on again/off again affair with a married ride repairman, the cool-as-hell Connell (Ryan Reynolds).

Adventureland feels autobiographical, and apparently Greg Mottola did work at Adventureland amusement park. This contributes to the feel of authenticity surrounding the work-a-day life of carnies. A fellow movie-goer, who had worked many summers at an amusement park, said it was like having flashbacks. The authenticity doesn't end there, either. The film's relationships stand out.

Brennan and Emily have a romance that actually develops, as he sheds his shyness and insecurity, and she opens up to a relationship that is emotional as well as physical. One of my favorite relationships, however, is the friendship between Brennan and Connell. They both throw each other under the bus, Connell by convincing Brennan into going out with Lisa P, and Brennan by spilling the beans on Connell's affair with Em. As Brennan says goodbye to Connell at the end, they both know that there was no malice, and each was living his life the best way he knew how: Connell by being a womanizer, and Brennan by being an optimist.

Personally, I loved the way relationships were portrayed here. Rarely do viewers get to see the strong feelings of early adulthood without the compulsory look down from the perspective of adulthood scorn. In fact, the parents barely register in this film, and when they do we see them for who they are, people living with the results of the decisions they made when they were in there early 20’s. It isn't ideal, but it is a reality for most people.

I agree with your perspective on Connell, Ryan Reynolds (Van Wilder) provides a bad-guy performance with subtlety that I didn’t think he was capable of. I would say that both of them left as friends, even though both portrayed the other in a very negative way.

For me though, the picture was made by its artistic impressions more than simply dialogue. Watch the 4th of July scene, right after Brennan says that he celebrates Bastille Day. The shot perfectly breaks up the ridiculous prose with concrete, sparkle and fade Americana. It is the metaphorical hole being shot in his dream of spending a summer in Europe, but also demonstrating that these new plans have a benefit of their own.

I also was impressed by the scene which occurs when Brennan confronts Lisa P. about spreading the gossip of Em and Van Wilder. All of the impressions he projected upon her because of her beauty all go out the window once Amadeus comes in over the loudspeakers and she starts dancing.

All in all, the ending was weak and the first 10-15 minutes really didn't catch me at all, but by the end I was enamored with this film, probably the best I have seen this year so far. It had great music, funny jokes (satin lives) great characterization, and the story was told extremely well. My only serious gripe was that the soundtrack (which was amazing) wasn't featured more prominently.

Ahh, the soundtrack. I had been listening to The Velvet Underground, as well as some of Lou Reed's solo work, the same day, just before I saw the film. So, to hear "Pale Blue Eyes" featured so prominently felt like my mind was playing tricks on me. The music drew distinct lines in the movie. Brennan and Em listen to the Cure, Lou Reed, and other emotionally honest and intelligently written music, while at work they suffer through an endless barrage of pop songs, worst of all Falco. Connell recognizes Brennan's superior musical tastes, wants to be in the "cool crowd", but in the end Brennan gets his one instant of superiority over Connell, when he corrects Connell's mis-naming of a Lou Reed song, whom Connel claims to have jammed with.

I don't think the soundtrack was too minimized, but I've been arguing for a while that movies should get away from the Garden State ethos of making the whole movie one gigantic music video.

The beginning was weak, I agree. There was nothing to make you feel sympathetic about this idiot kid who can't get laid because he's too neurotic, and the ex-girlfriend never had any screen-time and never made an emotional impact.

But as for the ending, other than cutting off the 30-second scene inside Em's apartment, it was the best way they could have ended it. Doing a Good Will Hunting ending, with Brennan finally having the stones to go see the girl, would not have told the full story, because both sides of this relationship are messed up. To have closure, you need both of them in the same place, both deciding to be together.

I agree that the ending was storyboarded well. By that I mean that all of the characters were in the right places at the right times. The failure that I saw was including the foreplay and portraying the certainty of the near future in the dialogue. Certainly, the dialogue remained consistent with the characterization, but I'm not sure that the situation did.

Besides the beginning and the very end this is a strong film.

CARL: Recommended.
JAY: Recommended.

No comments:

Post a Comment