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Movies: Waxing poetic in Adventureland

April 6, 2009


I was in a horrible, rotten mood yesterday.  I was facing some obstacles pertaining to the blog, and I almost canceled my sitter for this movie, because I thought it would not be fair to view the film in my pissy mood.  Boy am I glad I went.  Ten minutes into the movie I was reaching for my notepad (do you know how hard it is to take notes in the dark?) because I knew I just had to write about this movie. This movie stirred some unexpected emotions in me. It is set in 1987, which would have been my junior year in high school, so I suspect quite a bit of my emotion emerged from my sense of nostalgia.  Nonetheless, this is one of the sweetest (without being sappy) movies I can recall seeing.  It is smart, funny, and touching.

The plot is simple.  Jesse Eisenberg (who was great in The Squid and the Whale) plays a college graduate who finds out that his dreams of traversing across Europe for the summer have taken a detour.  He reluctantly takes a job at a local amusement park for the summer when the reality sinks in that Renaissance Studies does not bode well for exploding job opportunities.  The rest of the movie chronicles the summer at the amusement park and the relations he develops with several employees.  Other cast members include Kristen Stewart (Twilight), Bill Hader (funny as hell as the park owner) and Ryan Reynolds.

Eisenberg’s character James reminded me of an intellectualized Michael Cera.  He’s awkward and adorable.   He reads poetry, he’s thoughtful and he is cute but has no idea that he is yet. He meets and falls in love with a troubled fellow employee (Stewart).  They develop a sweet, chaste friendship that blossoms into romance.

Martin Starr plays coworker Joel, a surly nerdy coworker who states “it’s a criminal abuse of the laws of perception” after he shows James how the basketball game has been rigged so it is impossible to win.  He is endearing and heartbreaking to watch.

Stewart is good, but I could not help but notice some of her Bella-isms carried over from Twilight.  She does a bit of the twitching and facial expressions she did in that film. I was glad to see her in a completely different role from Twilight.  She definitely has potential.

This movie is  good at placing you in the moment and making you forget you are in the theater.   I thought that a scene where they all played bumper cars after smoking a bit of the kind bud was great.  It was filmed with the carnival lights slightly out of focus and the camera followed their carts as they veered about.  It was a scene of pure innocent joy. That’s when the nostalgia kicked in for me.  I kept remembering moments from that time in my life and really missed it for a while.

Part of the way the movie did that was through the use of it’s soundtrack, which I bought on itunes the minute I got home.  Lots of the songs had extreme personal meaning to me.  Some standouts include “Satellite of Love” by Lou Reed;  “Don’t Change”  by INXS;  “Don’t Dream it’s Over” by Crowded House;  “Pale Blue Eyes” by The Velvet Underground”  and “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure.

Now my friends we get to the moment.  There is a scene  towards the end of the movie that James is sitting on a bus.  It is dark and raining outside and he is resting his head against the window with a look of deep contemplation.  I was thinking how beautiful this frame was, then they started playing “Unsatisfied” by The Replacements and I became a puddle.  I remember where I was and who I was with when I first heard that song.  I saved up my allowance and the first album I ever bought was “Let it Be”.  So when I heard Paul Westerberg anguished wail of “I’m so, I’m so…unsatisfied” playing in the background I just about lost it.  It was seared in my brain as my perfect movie moment.

I also could relate to all the characters in this movie.  In high school and college I hung out with the same type of boys, incredulous that they had no clue what good catches they were.  They introduced me to music.  They took me to my first subtitled movies.  They introduced me to science fiction (Stranger in a Strange Land, anyone?) When this movie was over, I thought a lot about what has happened to them over the years.  This movie was very special to take me back to those days again. Bottom line movie-see it;  soundtrack-buy it.

Rating 5/5

posted by Shannon


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One Response to “ Movies: Waxing poetic in Adventureland ”

  1. Jeff Hays on April 6, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Great review, Shannon. Was prepared to love your review regardless (supporting a friend in a new venture, yadayadayada) but really enjoyed your insight. Looking forward to your next review!