A beautifully shot, touching, yet light and funny coming of age story, ‘Adventureland’ deserves to be seen – but not for the reasons I’ve just stated.
Yes, the cinematography by Terry Stacey, (shooter of the brilliant ‘Wendigo’), is startlingly personal for such a commercial project, the script is both witty yet amazingly not mannered and it is laugh out loud funny; you would think that would be reason enough to see it – but there’s something else higher on my list recommending it : its timing.
Let me explain:
‘Adventureland’s writer/director Greg Mottola is being touted around the Net as this generation’s John Hughes. Now I remember enjoying John Hughes’ movies when I was growing up, but it wasn’t until I moved away from the U.S. that I saw a major subtext, (whether meant consciously by Hughes or not), of the pictures.
That subtext posits a world of obscene wealth and the characters obliviousness as to the nature of their pampered lives.
Sitting in a small, darkened theater in the East London and watching ‘Home Alone’ one witnesses appalling excess. At the start of the picture we see a family that lives in a house so big it’s not even right to call it mansion – just call it a castle; and a family member who’s moving to Paris invites and pays for the whole extended family to visit Europe.
This is just one example, (don’t get me started on ‘Breakfast Club’ or ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’); the people populating Hughes’ pictures live in extreme luxury and, most importantly, the films don’t remark on this fact – it’s the de facto/base-line existence for these people.
This is not the world of ‘Adventureland’. Though set twenty years ago, the film perfectly captures the economically unsettled nature of our age. Its timing is perfect.
The people in ‘Adventureland’ have to work for a living, (and they are people – real people – with the one exception being the love interest who is far too beautiful for the role – why is it in this current crop of pics: ‘Knocked Up’, ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’, etc. the male leads all look like schlubs but the women could be professional models?).
The whole plot, (young man spends last summer of childhood working in seedy amusement park), is driven by economic necessity; lack of cash is why the hero James Brennan, (well played by Jesse Eisenberg, in his best “I’d like to have a career where people don’t think I’m Michael Cera mode”), is working at ‘Adventureland’ – in fact it’s why everyone is there – no one has any money – poor ‘fake-out’ love interest Lisa P is working to make ends meet cause her ‘old man’ has a back injury, etc.
Simply put, it’s a world in which people have to work. And having a job, regardless of what that job is, is something to be proud of.
James meets his first real love Em at work – she too is chained to ‘Adventureland’ by economic necessity, and while we don’t know how long their relationship will last, the movie does show us another couple who met ‘at work’ and still work together – the owners and managers of the Park, pictured below.
One look at that photo tells us they love each other – and they love working.
These days, that simple honest insight into our lives is enough to warrant a visit to the theatre. Go see ‘Adventureland’; on just about every level – it works.
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One note – like many a film these days some of the trailers for ‘Adventureland’ are misleading. It’s a far more nuanced and interesting film than the marketing material has portrayed, (of course depending on your taste this can be good thing or a bad thing).