DVD Review: “Adventureland”
“Adventureland” got cheated by a marketing campaign that presented it as the second coming of “Superbad.” But while Greg Mottola’s follow-up to that ultra-nasty teen party comedy is also concerned with growing up, it is far more weighted with young-adult emotions, the terrible ecstasy of first love and how disappointing parents can be. Mottola has created an absorbing, semi-autobiographical mood piece about a boy becoming a man, spending three frustrating months in Pittsburgh waiting for his life to start.
In 1987, James (Jesse Eisenberg) finishes his bachelor degree hoping to spend the summer hiking through Europe before graduate school. Then his parents’ finances crater, leaving James stuck in Pittsburgh working a summer job at Adventureland, a rundown amusement park with peeling paint, vaguely dangerous rides and rigged games. James is a smart young man whose ideas and emotions spill out of him like a burst water main, and when he meets Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart), a radiant and intelligent beauty working at the park, he falls hard and loses his coordination.
Mottola’s eye and ear for time period are spot-on: “Adventureland” is set after the death of new wave and four years before grunge’s birth, a purgatory of “Rock Me Amadeus” and hair-metal, and Yo La Tengo’s superb score helps capture the scene. While it is hardly the wild ride the trailers promised, great performances by Eisenberg, Stewart and especially Martin Starr as their jaded co-worker all make “Adventureland” more than just an amusement — it is a superbly bittersweet look at the last summer before adulthood. When I first saw this at the theater, I was much less effusive in my praise of “Adventureland,” but it feels more honest and representational of real life with repeated exposure.
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