Notes On A Film: Adventureland

As an evocation of America in the 1980s, Adventureland is an emotive recreation of that time; as a film, it feels like a piece of wish fulfilment from writer/director Greg Mottola. This imbalance means that, despite it being a very good film, I can’t completely warm to its many charms.

James (Jesse Eisenberg) has just graduated with a degree in comparative literature and looking forward to a trip around Europe. However, this dream falls through and he has to find a summer job. The only option is to work at Adventureland, a local amusement park in his home town, getting a position in the games area. Among the oddball collection of people who work there, he also meets Emily (Kristen Stewart), a pretty young girl who saves him from getting stabbed while working at the park. What follows is a coming of age tale for the geeky and socially awkward James, but with a bit more resonance than that summary would suggest.

The feel for the ’80s is perfect – I was getting flashbacks to my time as a teenager then, even though I was in the UK, and it asks the important question: why was Rock Me Amadeus by Falco so prevalent back then? There are some really nice performances by the supporting cast, including Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, and Ryan Reynolds puts in a nice turn as the park’s repair technician and a part-time musician who claims to have jammed with Lou Reed – the character comes across as charming but is actually quite shallow and unpleasant, but Reynolds sells it.

The two leads are very good: Eisenberg does nerdy and uncomfortable very well, and Stewart plays the innocent-looking but world-weary beauty with charm and ease. The main problem I have is that Eisenberg’s character is supposed to be Catholic but he’s one of the most Jewish-looking young men on screen at the moment – there are times when it feels like he’s channelling Woody Allen – and Stewart’s character is supposed to be Jewish, only she doesn’t look very Jewish to me. It’s the sort of thing that niggles me throughout, preventing me from fully engaging in the story. The other problem is as mentioned in the first paragraph: because Stewart is so pretty and Eisenberg is so gormless and not attractive, I can’t believe their interaction can work at all, especially as she is the chaser (just look at the way she is looking at Eisenberg in the poster); it makes the film feel like a fantasy of how Mottola wants to remember the time he worked at an amusement park, rather than just a story about that time. I’m not saying that semi-autobiographical tales have to be factual, but this disparity between the two lead characters was just too much for me to digest. Apart from that, I did enjoy the dialogue and the characters and the genuine warmth with which Mottola infused the film.

Rating: VID

[See here for my film rating system]

4 Comments

  • Anonymous 25 March 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Another piece of racist screed. "one of the most Jewish-looking young men on screen". Wow, that's lovely. What is this, Nazi Germany? Is it Jesse Eisenbergerstein's blonde hair and blue eyes that "look so Jewish" to the average racist? (like you, and I don't care if you're Jewish yourself).

    There is this sick, sick, disgusting movement to declare Jesse Eisenberg the "Jewish" actor of his generation, which is hilariously absurd and obscene – because among current young American male dramatic actors, almost every single last one is at least partially Jewish. Logan Lerman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Andrew Garfield, Anton Yelchin, all Jewish. Then the half Jews, like James Franco, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Foster, Ezra Miller. And a couple of part Jewish outliers like Armie Hammer and Zac Efron (not that he's much of a dramatic actor). I may be missing some.

    What does that leave us with? Oh, yes, Paul Dano, who doesn't appear to be Jewish at all. Not a huge loss. And Justin Timberlake, who is shaping up to be a good dramatic actor, but of course, he only got in through the "singer door".

    And despite this amazingly large selection of Jews, it's all about Jesse Eisenberg, the "awkward" "neurotic" "nerd" being Jewish! Yes, out of all those actors, the most repulsive, geeky, nerdy, annoying one has been officially put forward into nomination as "Jewish". Again! I'd believe it's a coincidence once, maybe twice, but in every generation?

    Oh, and we need to mention that Kristen Stewart isn't Jewish? Fine, neither is Martin Starr, who plays the other Jew. Why didn't you mention that? And Margarita Levieva, who plays Eisenberg's fellow Catholic in the movie, is also, of course, Jewish.

    Or does Margarita "look Catholic" to you? Measure the size of her nose and the dexterity of her hair, and get back to me on that one.

    Reply
  • Anonymous 25 March 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Hmmm, I don't know why I put Ezra Miller among the half Jews. Information is sketchy, so I don't really know if he's half. He may well be a full Jew, like Lerman, Gordon-Levitt, etc.

    Oh well. There goes my whole point.

    Reply
  • Anonymous 7 November 2014 at 10:02 pm

    For future reference:
    Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Julian Morris, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Marla Sokoloff, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Adam Brody, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gabriel Macht, Halston Sage, Seth Gabel, Alden Ehrenreich.

    Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Emmy Rossum, Jennifer Connelly, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman.

    Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Andrew Garfield, Ezra Miller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Ben Foster, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron, Jonathan Keltz.

    Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

    Reply
  • Anonymous 7 November 2014 at 10:02 pm

    For future reference:
    Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Julian Morris, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Marla Sokoloff, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Adam Brody, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gabriel Macht, Halston Sage, Seth Gabel, Alden Ehrenreich.

    Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Emmy Rossum, Jennifer Connelly, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman.

    Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Andrew Garfield, Ezra Miller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Ben Foster, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron, Jonathan Keltz.

    Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

    Reply

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