Adventureland – Sticking the eyes on bananas

When did I start watching so many romantic comedies? (500) Days of Summer should have slated my thirst for indie rom-coms for months, yet here I am watching Adventureland. Adventureland is a sweet little film. Like (500) Days it deals with a twenty-something guy who is a hopeless romantic stuck in the ordinary world. Through their monotonous work the main character meets the girl of their dreams Em/Summer. Pretty, intelligent, deep and just a little damaged. Now our hero James/Tom can save her with his love. Looks like indie has gone mainstream.

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But you’ll have to wait to hear more about the film. Just like I had too. I rolled up to Luton with the cinema in mind. I hadn’t checked times but was surprised to find they weren’t showing anything for the next two hours. Luckily they were showing Adventureland as the next film, I wasn’t about to stick around to watch Gamer. Now two hours isn’t the longest amount of time, but it can feel that way in Luton.

If you aren’t familiar with Luton, you are lucky. Spending time there is a difficult and thankless task. It has a large shopping centre and the usual high street full with shops you could exchange for anywhere else in England. What bothered me was how everyone there seemed to have given up. The air was full of defeat and anguish. The one hopeful character was a Chugger (charity + mugger) named Alan. Alan was working for the charity UNICEF, but he was having a hard time of it.

Alan stood out amongst the crowd because he was moving with a frantic energy that the sedate populace was lacking. He was also wearing an electric blue jacket. He quickly moved himself into my line of sight as I stalked Luton’s streets to kill time. I didn’t really want to talk to him, but I understand how difficult it is having that job. So I humoured the lad. Luton was not so kind.

Sensing that I was treating another human being as such, Luton set about to put an end to it. A truck drove down what I thought was a pedestrian area to try and hit poor Alan. Then it was a road-sweeper who sought to run the blighter down. By now I feared for his life. I made my excuses and left him to prey on the guilt of the next person who went by. He was a nice guy, trying to get people to listen to him. If you have a minute check out the UNICEF website and see what you can do.

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So after two hours the film is about to start. Yippee. The cinema was dead and as a result you had far too many members of staff milling about with nothing to do. They all looked disinterested and dissatisfied. With a serge of zeal one member of the damned ran over to me to check my ticket. During the film a security guard, drunk on power, strutted into the theatre and let us all hear his walky talky go off several times. What a stud muffin he is.

Towards the end of the film our friendly neighbourhood bureaucracy enforcer returned to warn us not to have our feet on the chair in front. The cinema only had a dozen people in and yet four had their feet up. Myself included. But there is a catch. I had my feet resting one on top of the other in the gap between the chairs. No part of my shoe was in contact with the chair. I was too engrossed in the film to get into a debate on the topic but feel I should have mentioned it on my way out. He had run away by that point. Pansy.

Watching the film I had a funtastic time. That isn’t a typo, it’s a clever quote from the film. Now you can use it with your friends and seem really hip. Sure the film is set in 1987 making you some twenty years late to the party, but better late than never. Because the film is set in the late 80’s it is a great excuse to have an awesome soundtrack. Lou Reed is practically part of the cast with his face on posters, t-shirts and album covers. This proto-punk outlook is seen in James and Em. They are stuck in Pittsburgh when they have a more cosmopolitan view on life.

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James is a very quiet rebel. Played capably by Jesse Eisenberg, James has just graduated university and looking for what to do next. That sounds very familiar to me. I’m going through the same thing at the minute. I don’t have a theme park near by but I imagine scrubbing dishes in a pub’s kitchen will be similarly depressing. The upside being that I might just meet a girl I’m crazy about.

Em (played by Kristen Stewart) is that girl for James. And I can see why. She is exactly the type of girl I was nuts about in high school. Pretty but didn’t know it. Angry but not militant. Desirable but distant. A few names spring to mind instantly. James can’t believe his luck when a girl like Em invites him to one of her parties. He does the miraculous and manages to not make an arse of himself. Too much. Their small romance feels very private and genuine. Jesse Eisenberg did not have to try very hard to look like he enjoyed kissing Kristen Stewart.

Like most young men, James frequently thinks about sex. This leads to some awkward erection jokes that shows that this film is from the director of Superbad. This is a much more sedate and mature affair though. Whilst Superbad was screwing around with your friends before college, this is about what you have to do to save yourself from becoming a screw up. None of the adult characters are adequate role models for the main characters.

From watching interviews with writer and director, Greg Mottola, I can tell this is very personal. His speech patterns are almost identical to James’s. It seems like we have a man with arrested development, still hanging onto that high school crush that messed his head up. I’m sure he had a lot of McJobs before he was taken seriously as a film maker. Sometimes you just have to stick the eyes on bananas.

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Bill Hader provides excellent comic relief in this film that could otherwise tip into melodrama. He plays the crazy manager at Adventureland who has a very certain way of how he thinks the park should be run. None of these expectations bare much resemblance on reality. But that doesn’t matter for his smitten partner who thinks he is just wonderful. It is sweet and surreal.

The story of Adventureland is simple and the characters are routine, but in a nice way. It all feels everyday because that is what it is trying to be. This isn’t the doomed romance of Kristen Stewart’s much other big film this year. It is about life and how it has a way of screwing up. This film is not for everyone but I’d say it is capable of doing a couple of lengths in the pool. At its worst it is treading water, at its best it soars.

AntBuoy

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2 Comments on “Adventureland – Sticking the eyes on bananas”

  1. Aiden R Says:

    Great review, man. Thought the same thing about it, good movie, but unspectacular. Still, a pretty cool Summer all the same. Keep up the good work.

    • AntBuoy Says:

      Cheers mate. I liked how laid back Jesse Eisenberg was and think he’ll be really good in Zombieland which is out later this year. I think Kristen Stewart will start to steal Keira Knightley’s roles soon, and that will just be funny.


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