Adventureland was not what I was expecting. I had been pretty sure it was a kids’ fantasy film. Instead, Adventureland is a coming–of–age film of a summer in 1987 where Jesse Eisenberg1 and Kristen Stewart get together while working in Adventureland, which is an amusement park. There are a lot of fun and not as fun people, they get high a lot and enjoy their summer, as much as you can do it with working a shitty job with long hours and no motivation.
It doesn’t take long, though, until it becomes clear the film is more complex, the characters have actual big issues (Stewart sleeping with a married man–douche, what’s up with that?) and they’re not just the surface. Adventureland distinctly promises a film with a deeper meaning, and I think that is what ultimately failed this film.
They simply didn’t follow through. There were interesting characters introduced with promising storylines, but for some reason, from around the hour mark, the film started to downgrade itself. I’ll give this film this: it really and truly tried to be The Breakfast Club. It did. Maybe if not an A, I’d give this film a B for effort. They scooped some of it back for the ending, and it would have truly been a great one if instead of reducing themselves to the teen drama, they would have continued with the real coming–of–age themes.
Now, if this film hadn’t promised us the complexity, nobody would’ve even asked. The start felt like a feel–good film, where there’s perfectly okay to flow through the summer, sometimes smoking a lot of pot, sometimes less. But they didn’t, they gave us Ryan Reynolds’ and Stewart’s fucked up romance, Eisenberg’s issues with university and future. And so all this resulted in nothing truly interesting or captivating happening during the 100–minute course of the film.
I think the performances were a great part of this film. Now, yes, there’s Kristen Stewart above this sentence, please don’t freak out. I think Stewart is actually a good actress (just watch On the Road or The Runaways) and she was good here, too. Eisenberg surprised with being less cocky, but struggled with it. Bill Hader was awesome here, and if Reynolds’ assignment was to make me hate his smug face, he succeeded. The actors are good. The problem is that the characters aren’t.
This is again the same problem with the film: they barely scratched the surface on their personalities, while giving some interesting storylines. One or the other would have been fine, but Mottola can’t seem to decide if he wants this film to be soul–searching or just fun, so he tries both, but ultimately accomplishes neither. That’s what makes the otherwise great ending unsatisfying: there was no journey.
Plot: In the summer of 1987, a college graduate takes a ‘nowhere’ job at his local amusement park, only to find it’s the perfect course to get him prepared for the real world. via IMDb.
Director: Greg Mottola
Writer: Greg Mottola
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds
1 Second film where Eisenberg gets dumped in the beginning of a film, and he’s not even that much of a jerk as in The Social Network. Poor guy.